Taiwanese expert says washing hands more important than masks to fight Wuhan virus

Taiwanese doctor says washing hands trumps face masks when it comes to fending off Wuhan virus

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(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwanese expert told a government meeting on Wednesday (Feb. 5) that washing hands is more important than wearing a face mask when it comes to preventing the spread of the Wuhan virus.

Speaking at a Democratic Progressive Party Central Standing Committee meeting, Ho Mei-shang (何美鄉), an epidemiologist at Academia Sinica, provided a summary of a report titled "Prediction of New Coronavirus Epidemic Situation and Corresponding Strategies." During her presentation, Ho stressed that "handwashing is more important than masks," and people do not need to rush to buy masks, reported Liberty Times.

She said that to deal with the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic, "Frequent handwashing is more important than masks, there is no need to rush to buy masks." Ho said that based on her professional assessment, "There is no need to rush out and grab masks now."

She also called for a rethinking of public service announcements and establishing better channels of mutual trust and communication. Ho, who participated in the fight against SARS in Taiwan in 2003, said the situation in Taiwan is relatively safe at this stage.

She said she was puzzled about the panic buying of masks and ominously added: "This is an unstoppable epidemic and it will continue to spread. Washing hands is more important than wearing masks. Don't fight over masks," reported CNA.

Ho believes the global demand for masks and epidemic prevention materials will not slow down. She said what Taiwan can do is postpone the utilization of these items and make preparations, including materials, drugs, vaccines and personnel training.

She said that Taiwan is currently in the process of containment. "We need to change our thinking. We need to think about how to reduce risks, protect the people at greatest risk and give masks to those who need them," Ho said, according to the report.

She said that before Jan. 24, the center of the epidemic was in Wuhan, but it will enter a second cycle on Friday (Feb. 7). Ho said that Taiwanese businessmen will still want to travel to China and the government cannot prevent them from returning — but they can be monitored upon their return to reduce the risk of community infection.

Ho added the government needs to find ways to earn the trust of the people and guide them in conserving vital resources:

"As long as we are not anxious and put the right resources in the right places, there will be no shortage of resources. However, if we randomly scramble over over them, there will be a shortage of resources. At this time, how do we educate the people to believe in the government? Sometimes the government is imperfect, sometimes it makes mistakes, but everyone should work together."