Coronavirus: Countries where face masks are mandatory in COVID-19 fight

Woman and child in face masks.
Woman and child in face masks. Photo credit: Getty

The benefits and effectiveness of face masks have become widely debated in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with numerous countries making it mandatory for masks to be worn by the public.

While they can be of benefit to those who are ill by containing the infectious droplets that spread COVID-19, other health authorities say widely available surgical masks do little to keep viruses out.

It has also been debated whether masks provide bacteria and viruses with a warm, damp environment for it to thrive, or encourage frequent face-touching. 

Microbiologist and infectious disease specialist Dr Siouxsie Wiles noted that cloth masks are often ill-fitting and fail to provide the wearer with adequate protection. 

"It would be worse to wear one, if you didn't know how to wear it, if you don't have the virus," she told Newshub.

"You're much more likely to be fiddling with your face and if you had droplets on your fingers, you're much more likely to infect yourself."

There's also the question of whether masks are needed to prevent asymptomatic patients, who may be unaware they have contracted the virus, from infecting others. Health experts say infected individuals can transmit COVID-19 even before developing symptoms. 

New Zealand's Ministry of Health does not recommend the widespread use of face masks, advising that personal protective equipment (PPE) is unnecessary for most people in the community. 

"However, for people with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends there may be benefit in wearing a face mask to reduce the spread of infection to other people," the ministry says.

"The use of PPE, such as face masks, can reduce the spread of infection when used correctly and in the appropriate context. This may be recommended in workplaces where people are more likely to come in contact with the disease."

WHO says masks are only necessary for the ill, or those caring for the ill. Yet as reported by the New York Times, places like Hong Kong - where almost everyone began wearing masks - managed to successfully limit the spread of the virus. 

Yet across the world, a number of nations are making it compulsory for the public to wear masks. 


Wearing a surgical mask is compulsory in the Czech Republic. Every citizen has to wear a surgical mask by law throughout the pandemic. 

On March 29, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis urged US President Donald Trump to adopt the same approach, tweeting: "Mr President, try tackling the virus the Czech way. Wearing a simple cloth mask decreases the spread of the virus by 80 percent."

In Austria, masks are also recommended for preventing the spread of the virus. Last Wednesday, the country banned residents from entering a supermarket without a mask. 

"It's necessary to take this step to further reduce the spread," said Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

In Germany, the eastern city of Jena became the first in Germany to introduce compulsory face masks for shoppers - yet the Government in Berlin warns masks could contribute to a false sense of security.

Masks have also been made mandatory in Slovakia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

United States

US health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now advising all Americans to wear simple cloth covering when out in public to help prevent the country's escalating outbreak of the virus. 


The use of face masks is strongly encouraged in mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, with the product even being widely distributed to homes and families in some areas.


As reported by Reuters, Morocco has now made wearing face masks mandatory, starting on Tuesday, for anyone allowed to go out during the virus outbreak.

Person wearing face mask in tube station, London, UK.
Person wearing face mask in tube station, London, UK. Photo credit: Getty.

Bach in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health recommends the public to adhere to basic hygiene measures, including the frequent washing of hands with soap and water, coughing and sneezing into a tissue or the elbow, staying at home when ill, and cleaning surfaces regularly. 

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