OTTAWA -- Canada’s top doctor is offering new advice to Canadians about when to wear a face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you.”

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam now suggests that if you have to go out into public, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of Covid-19, 

“In situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as in public transit, or maybe at a grocery store, a non-medical mask can reduce the chance of your respiratory coming into contact with others, or land on surfaces.”

Will it prevent you from catching the virus?

“Wearing a non-medical mask in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it. It is an additional way that you can protect others,” says Dr. Tam.

She also emphasized that wearing a mask is not a substitute for keeping a physical distance away from others, “wearing a non-medical mask in the community does not mean you can back off the public heath measures that we know work to protect you”

Dr. Abdu Sharkawy is an Infectious Diseases expert with the University Health Network at Toronto Western Hospital.   He says the public should leave the supply of surgical masks for medical use, but suggests making your own using items you might already have at home.

“You can use cotton, you can use an anti-microbial pillow case if you have one, you can use linen if you have that; the most important thing is that whatever you’re using, it should be able to at least be able to absorb a little bit of moisture and humidity, and ideally can be washed at least once or twice a week, depending on how frequently you’re using it”

When should you wear masks?

Dr. Sharkawy explains, “when you’re in places like the grocery store or when you’re on public transit, it’s next to unavoidable to be (at least) six feet of somebody at all times; and so, it’s important to make sure that in those instances that you have that extra layer of protection.”