Face masks could put wearers at increased risk of coronavirus, top medic warns

People who wear face masks could be putting themselves more at risk of contracting coronavirus, England's deputy chief medical officer has warned.

Dr Jenny Harries said it is "not a good idea" for the average member of the public to put on a face mask unless they have been advised to by a healthcare worker.

Speaking to BBC News on Thursday, she warned the virus could even become trapped in face masks, resulting in the wearer breathing it in.

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Coronavirus across the globe
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Coronavirus across the globe
Aerial view of employees digging graves at Vila Formosa cemetery, in outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 31, 2020. - Vila Formosa cemetery, the largest in Latin America with an area of 780 thousand square meters and where more than 1.5 million people were buried, had a 30% increase in the number of burials after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP) (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)
03 April 2020, Saxony, Dresden: ILLUSTRATION - A dental technician puts on protective goggles and wears an FFP3 respirator (posed scene) before treating a corona patient in a dental office. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Robert Michael/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Families stands and watching the burial process of their family who died by coronavirus (Covid-19) at the burial site in Jakarta, on April 2, 2020. The Covid-19 coronavirus case in Indonesia is continue to increase, as of April 2, the government officially confirmed 1.790 cases, with 112 recovered and at least 170 fatalities. Taking Indonesia to the most fatalities in South-East Asia. (Photo by Aditya Irawan/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
03 April 2020, North Rhine-Westphalia, Duesseldorf: Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU), Minister of Health of North Rhine-Westphalia, speaks during a press conference. The state government will report on the current situation and the measures taken by the state government in the context of the corona pandemic as well as on cross-border cooperation with the Netherlands and Belgium. Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa (Photo by Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images)
BEIJING, March 28, 2020 -- Cemetery staff members leave after helping clean the tombstone and offer flowers at the Babaoshan People's Cemetery in Beijing, capital of China, March 28, 2020. People can ask the cemetery staff to help clean tombs and offer flowers to the deceased on their behalf via the reservation service system in Beijing around the Tomb-sweeping Day, which falls on April 4 this year, as methods to prevent mass gatherings amid the COVID-19 outbreak.(Photo by Peng Ziyang/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Peng Ziyang via Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - APRIL 03, 2020: A man walks through a mobile disinfection chamber for citizens in Mamak district amid the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Altan Gocher / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Altan Gocher/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
PERTH, SCOTLAND - APRIL 03: Police patrol the High Street during the Coronavirus lockdown on April 3, 2020 in Perth,Scotland.The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 50,000 lives and infecting over 1 million people. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Medical staff carry a patient infected with the COVID-19 onboard a medicalized TGV high speed train at the railway station in Strasbourg, eastern France, on April 3, 2020, prior to his evacuation, along with 23 other patients, to hospitals in Bordeaux southwestern France, where the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been limited so far. (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - APRIL 3 2020 : Acehnese Muslims are seen attending Friday prayers at the Islamic Center Mosque, in Lhokseumawe, without applying social distance rules amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak, on April 3, 2020, in Aceh, Indonesia. According to the latest report, on April 3, Indonesia confirmed 1,986 cases of COVID-19, with 181 deaths and 134 declared cured.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Fachrul Reza / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Fachrul Reza/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
STRASBOURG, FRANCE - APRIL 03: An official with a protective suit carries out disinfection work for trams in central Strasbourg, eastern France on April 03, 2020. (Photo by Elyxandro Cegarra/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Gardai stop and question people at a checkpoint on O'Connell Street in Dublin as the Covid-19 crisis continues. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
The French amphibious helicopter carrier (PHA) Dixmude leaves the port of Toulon, on April 03, 2020, to join the West Indies and Guyana in order to provide logistical support and sanitary equipment, in particular "more than a million surgical masks", "more than 170,000 FFP2 masks" and "several hundred liters of hydroalcoholic gel", to fight the epidemic of Covid-19. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP) (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)
Spanish soldiers assemble beds at a temporary shelter for homeless people set-up at a sports center in Valencia on April 3, 2020, amid a national lockdown to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. - More than 900 people died in Spain over the past 24 hours for the second day running, government figures showed on Friday, although the rate of new infections and deaths continued to slow. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP) (Photo by JOSE JORDAN/STR/AFP via Getty Images)
A medical staff waits for a patient infected with the COVID-19 to be embarked onboard a medicalized TGV high speed train at the railway station in Strasbourg, eastern France, on April 3, 2020, during the evacuation of 24 patients to hospitals in Bordeaux southwestern France, where the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been limited so far. (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
03 April 2020, Saxony, Dresden: ILLUSTRATION - A dental assistant puts on a protective visor before treating a corona patient in a dental practice. Underneath she wears an FF3 type respirator (scene posed). Photo: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Robert Michael/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock touches his face and eye during the opening of the "NHS Nightingale" field hospital, created at the ExCeL London exhibition centre, in London on April 3, 2020, to help with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - The new state-run National Health Service (NHS) hospital, named after trailblazing 19th-century nurse Florence Nightingale, has been built in just nine days. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Local resident Alex Girdwood working on her plot at Mudchute Allotments on the Isle of Dogs, east London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Medical staff carry a patient infected with the COVID-19 towards a medicalized TGV high speed train at the railway station in Strasbourg, eastern France, on April 3, 2020, prior to his evacuation, along with 23 other patients, to hospitals in Bordeaux southwestern France, where the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been limited so far. - The information board reads : The disease generally disappears after a few days with rest, but (...). (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Police personnel wearing coronavirus-themed helmets ride on horses as they participate in a awareness campaign during a 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad, on April 2, 2020. (Photo by NOAH SEELAM / AFP) (Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images)
VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA - APRIL 2, 2020: Travellers are seen at the Vladivostok Airport on arrival on a repatriation flight from Bangkok, Thailand during the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). All Russian citizens who are repatriated by plane must be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine for observation. In Vladivostok, travellers are sent to an observation facility at the Sakharny Klyuch health resort. As of 2 April 2020, Russia has reported more than 2700 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with 5 confirmed cases in the Primorye Territory. Dmitry Yefremov/TASS EDITORIAL USE ONLY; NO COMMERCIAL USE; NO ADVERTISING (Photo by Dmitry Yefremov\TASS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - APRIL 1: Empire State Building lights up like an ambulance to honour emergency healthcare workers responding to the new type of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in New York City, United States on April 1, 2020. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA - APRIL 2, 2020: A pilot in a face mask is seen at the Vladivostok Airport after a repatriation flight from Bangkok, Thailand during the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). All Russian citizens who are repatriated by plane must be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine for observation. In Vladivostok, travellers are sent to an observation facility at the Sakharny Klyuch health resort. As of 2 April 2020, Russia has reported more than 2700 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with 5 confirmed cases in the Primorye Territory. Dmitry Yefremov/TASS (Photo by Dmitry Yefremov\TASS via Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 02: An aerial view of an empty Bondi Beach on April 02, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. The Australian government has introduced further restrictions on movement and gatherings in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Public gatherings are now limited to two people, while Australians are being urged to stay home unless absolutely necessary. New South Wales and Victoria have also enacted additional lockdown measures to allow police the power to fine people who breach the two-person outdoor gathering limit or leave their homes without a reasonable excuse. Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have all closed their borders to non-essential travellers and international arrivals into Australia are being sent to mandatory quarantine in hotels for 14 days. (Photo by James Gourley/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL â April 01: Replica of Christ the Redeemer with surgical mask on Copacabana beach, to remind people about the danger of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on April 01, 2020. (Photo by Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
HIMEJI, JAPAN - APRIL 02: Tourists wear face masks as they sit on an empty tour boat during the cherry blossom season at Himeji castle lake on April 2,2020 in Himeji, Japan. Japan number of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections growing rapidly urban areas, Tokyo and Osaka city has suggested prevent the spread of coronavirus self-restraint bars, karaoke, live house and restaurant with entertainment. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
Hindu priests wearing facemasks perform rituals during the festival of Rama Navami, the birthday of God Rama, at a temple during a 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Hyderabad, on April 2, 2020. (Photo by NOAH SEELAM / AFP) (Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman wearing a protective face mask to help stop the spread of the coronavirus rides a bicycle past blooming cherry blossom trees Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Tokyo. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
People wear protective face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus next to a police statue with its own mask at the Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, April 1, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Impoverished Indians offer prayers outside a roadside Hindu temple closed on account of lockdown to prevent the spread of new coronavirus in Prayagraj, India, Wednesday, April 1, 2020. India's 21-day lockdown has effectively kept 1.3 billion people at home for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies. But the world's largest lockdown has turned into a humanitarian crisis for India's impoverished people. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Corporal Mathias Jahn, member of the German armed forces Bundeswehr, fixes his glasses beside a mobile coronavirus test station prior Bundeswehr members demonstrating his work in a test run after a press conference at a drive-through (drive-in) COVID-19 testing center in Gera, Germany, Wednesday, April 1, 2020. The appointment-only drive-through testing center began twelfe days ago. Medical staff reach into a car to take a nasopharyngeal swab from a patient. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
People wearing face masks ride an escalator near a winged statue at an upscale shopping mall in Beijing, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. China on Tuesday reported just one new death from the coronavirus and a few dozen new cases, all brought from overseas. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Visitors wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk along the Cheonggye stream under the posters for the upcoming National Assembly elections in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The elections will be held on April 15 about 14,300 polling stations at all over the nation to pick lawmakers. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
An Indian worker prepares to load cartons of milk powder in a parcel train during lockdown as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish young man is tested for COVID-19 by medical personnel wearing protective gear as part of the government's measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in the orthodox city of Bnei Brak, a Tel Aviv suburb, Israel, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
A Kashmiri couple paddle their Shikara back home after buying flour and other food items from a near by market during lockdown in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/ Dar Yasin)
A man gets a shave outside closed shops during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventative measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in the old quarters of New Delhi on March 30, 2020. (Photo by Money SHARMA / AFP) (Photo by MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen of the National guard wearing face masks, amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, guard the parliament during an extraordinary sitting on March 30, 2020. - Ukraine announced on Monday a sharp revision of this year's economic forecast from 3.7 percent growth to a 3.9 percent contraction due to the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
Recipients of the charity 'Essener Tafel' food bank stand with their shopping trolley in a line at the food bank in Essen, western Germany, on March 30, 2020 amidst the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
An ambulance medical staff sprays disinfectant on his colleague after arriving at Wuhan Red Cross Hospital with an elderly woman, who recovered from COVID-19, at Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on March 30, 2020, after travel restrictions into the city were eased following more than two months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. - Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged last year, partly reopened on March 28 after more than two months of near total isolation for its population of 11 million. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)
A South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldier gestures towards a line of shoppers at a supermarket in Soweto on March 30, 2020. - South Africa came under a nationwide lockdown on March 27, 2020, joining other African countries imposing strict curfews and shutdowns in an attempt to halt the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus across the continent. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP) (Photo by MARCO LONGARI/AFP via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - MARCH 29: The Oculus transportation hub and mall stands nearly deserted in lower Manhattan on March 29, 2020 in New York City. Across the country schools, businesses and places of work have either been shut down or are restricting hours of operation as health officials try to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
28 March 2022, Berlin: A family goes for a walk in Friedenau. All family members wear colorful masks as protection against the coronavirus. The masks were sewn by a friend of the family herself. Photo: Wolfram Steinberg/dpa (Photo by Wolfram Steinberg/picture alliance via Getty Images)
MOUNT JULIET, TN - MARCH 29: Aerial view as Pastor Greg Locke of Global Vision Bible Church holds services in the church parking lot on March 29, 2020 in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order that prohibits social gatherings of 10 or more in response to coronavirus (COVID-19), which is also recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 29, 2020: An officer of the Mospriroda environmental agency in a face mask uses a megaphone to remind visitors about social distancing rules, at the entrance to the Serebryany Bor forest park in a north-west suburb of Moscow. The Russian government has announced a paid week off work (30 March to 3 April) for employed people and school holidays (21 March - 12 April), while Moscow's authorities have ordered the shutdown of restaurants, leisure facilities and other service industry businesses and urged Muscovites to self-isolate to counter the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Forest parks remain open but the public are warned to observe social distancing rules. Sergei Karpukhin/TASS (Photo by Sergei Karpukhin\TASS via Getty Images)
CORSO VITTORIO EMANUELE II, MILAN, ITALY - 2020/03/29: General view shows almost deserted corso Vittorio Emanuele II. The Italian government imposed unprecedented restrictions to halt the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, among other measures people movements are allowed only for work, for buying essential goods and for health reasons. (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - MARCH 29: General view of an almost empty Beach in Tel Aviv on March 29, 2020 in Tel Aviv, Israel. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 30,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Guy Prives/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 29, 2020: A young couple in face masks stroll in the Serebryany Bor forest park in a north-west suburb of Moscow. The Russian government has announced a paid week off work (30 March to 3 April) for employed people and school holidays (21 March - 12 April), while Moscow's authorities have ordered the shutdown of restaurants, leisure facilities and other service industry businesses and urged Muscovites to self-isolate to counter the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Forest parks remain open but the public are warned to observe social distancing rules. Sergei Karpukhin/TASS (Photo by Sergei Karpukhin\TASS via Getty Images)
Migrant workers and their families coming from Delhi, get inside an overloaded bus to reach their hometown and villages during government imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against COVID-19 coronavirus in Allahabad on March 29, 2020. (Photo by Ritesh Shukla/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks next to a billboard with instructions, on how to properly sneeze, in Jerusalem on March 29, 2020, amid measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. - Israel has 3,865 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with another 99 in the occupied Palestinian territories and tens of thousands in self-isolation. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)
28 March 2020, Bavaria, Munich: The Königsplatz in front of the Propyläen is almost deserted. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa (Photo by Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images)
LIVORNO, ITALY - MARCH 28: People attend afternoon mass whilst respecting social distancing in the ancient Church of the Madonna on March 28, 2020 in Livorno, Italy. In Italy liturgical celebrations are not prohibited and can take place with a restricted number of people necessary for the officiation of the rite and through respect for the appropriate distances and cautions. The Italian government continues to enforce the nationwide lockdown measures to control the spread of COVID-19. The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Italy has passed 92,470 with the death toll rising to over 10,000. (Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 28: A shopping area is closed as a preventive measure against the new type of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia on March 28, 2020. Parks, entertainment venues, restaurants and public places will be closed up between March 28 - April 5 in Moscow. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
SERIATE, ITALY - MARCH 28: Military personnel make preparations before leaving the church of San Giuseppe to carry coffins of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic victims to crematorium in Seriate, Italy on March 28, 2020. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- MARCH 28 - Prime Minister Trudeau announced that passengers with any symptoms of COVOD-19 will not be allowed to board domestic flights or trains as only essential industries are open as the province shut down non-essential services and industries to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Toronto. March 28, 2020. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 27: The message "Merci" (thank you) in tribute of those on the frontline to fight the coronavirus disease, is seen on the Eiffel Tower at night during the Coronavirus epidemic (CODIV 19) on March 27, 2020 in Paris, France. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced today the extension of the confinement of the French until April 15, 2020.The country has introduced fines for people caught violating its nationwide lockdown measures intended to stop the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic has spread to at least 182 countries, claiming over 10,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - MARCH 27: General view of an emergency makeshift field hospital as it is set up at Pacaembu Stadium for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients with a capacity of 200 beds on March 27, 2020 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. According to the Ministry of health, as of today, Brazil has 2.915 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and at least 77 recorded deceases. (Photo by Miguel Schincariol/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TEXAS - MARCH 27: In this photo illustration, a postcard mailing outlining coronavirus guidelines from the White House and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on March 27, 2020 in Dallas, Texas. The United States currently has over 1,300 deaths due to COVID-19. (Photo illustration by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
KIEV, UKRAINE - MARCH 27, 2020: Russian citizens boarding a train at Central Railway Station. Russia and Ukraine have agreed a deal to briefly resume train connection between the two countries to repatriate their citizens in connection with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. A special train with Russian citizens will leave Kiev on 27 March and arrive in Moscow on the next day. On its return journey, the train will take Ukrainian citizens to Kiev. Anna Marchenko/TASS (Photo by Anna Marchenko\TASS via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 27: Jets are parked on runway 28 at the Pittsburgh International Airport on March 27, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Due to decreased flights as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, close to 70 American Airlines planes are being stacked and parked at the airport. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
An employee of the Ministry of Public Works fumigates a street amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Santo Domingo on March 27, 2020. (Photo by Erika SANTELICES / AFP) (Photo by ERIKA SANTELICES/afp/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Streets and plazas are empty in the Chinatown neighborhood as people stay home and non-essential businesses are ordered closed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. The United States surpassed China and Italy as the country with the most coronavirus cases with more than 97,000 people confirmed and more than 1,000 people having died from COVID-19. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Security forces arrest a man for operating a restaurant serving food to customers eating on the premises, which has been prohibited and only takeaways are allowed under measures aimed at halting the spread of the new coronavirus, in Nairobi, Kenya Friday, March 27, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
Impoverished Indians stand in a queue to receive free food in Hyderabad, India, Friday, March 27, 2020. Some of India's legions of poor and others suddenly thrown out of work by a nationwide stay-at-home order began receiving aid on Thursday, as both public and private groups worked to blunt the impact of efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic. The measures that went into effect Wednesday, the largest of their kind in the world, risk heaping further hardship on the quarter of the population who live below the poverty line and the 1.8 million who are homeless. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
People line up to buy supplies in a shop during the coronavirus outbreak in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, March 27, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Residents of the densely populated Hillbrow neighborhood of downtown Johannesburg, confined in an attempt to prevent the spread coronavirus, stand and wave from their balconies, Friday, March 27, 2020. South Africa went into a nationwide lockdown for 21 days in an effort to mitigate the spread to the coronavirus. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Volunteers with the Red Cross sort homemade face masks meant to be sterilized and distributed among people in need in Prague, Czech Republic, Friday, March 27, 2020. In Czech Republic it is mandatory that all people must cover their mouths and noses in public to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus called COVID-19. Improvised methods such as a scarf or homemade mask are allowed.The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Customers queue between social distancing markers on the pavement outside a supermarket in Westminster, London after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man wearing a protective face masks shops at the partly closed Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda Market on March 26, 2020, after Israel has imposed tight restrictions to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus disease, in Jerusalem. (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP) (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)
A municipal worker disinfects a street in front of the Parliament as a measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in Bishkek on March 26, 2020. (Photo by Vyacheslav OSELEDKO / AFP) (Photo by VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP via Getty Images)
Workers using heavy equipment lift medical equipment to be used for Corona Special Hospital (COVID-19) at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Riau Islands, , on March 12, 2020.. A number of medical devices for the Corona Special Hospital on Galang Island which were transported by the TNI Air Force Squadron 31 type A-1317 Halim Perdanakusuma (Photo by Teguh Prihatna/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 26: A man wearing a protective mask stands next to a car with a trunk full of flowers that the Madrina Foundation sends as a gift to the health workers and to decorate the field hospital at IFEMA, where people infected with coronavirus from other centres in the Community of Madrid are treated on March 26, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via Getty Images)
Indonesian bride Irra Chorina Octora and her Turkish partner Yavuz Ozdemir, wearing face masks amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, attend their wedding ceremony in Surabaya on March 25, 2020. (Photo by Juni Kriswanto / AFP) (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP via Getty Images)
Pigeons gather on a place near a deserted road during the first day of a 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Hyderabad on March 25, 2020. (Photo by Noah SEELAM / AFP) (Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images)
People stand on designated areas to maintain social distancing as they queue outside a medical store during the first day of a 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Allahabad on March 25, 2020. (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP) (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP via Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Members of the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the "White Helmets", prepare to disinfect a school where displaced Syrians are sheltered in the town of Maaret Misrin in Syria's northwestern Idlib province on March 25, 2020 as part of efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus. (Photo by Ahmad al-ATRASH / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD AL-ATRASH/AFP via Getty Images)
A man walks in Canary Wharf, London during rush hour, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
People on bikes ride along a deserted road during the first day of a 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Chennai on March 25, 2020. - India's billion-plus population went into a three-week lockdown on March 25, with a third of the world now under orders to stay indoors, as the coronavirus pandemic forced Japan to postpone the Olympics until next year. (Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP) (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)
A man holding a Japan national flag with 'supporting the world' written on it. 'Flame of Recovery' special exhibition at Aquamarine Park after Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games 2020 are announced to be postpone due to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Photo by Viola Kam / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
25 March 2020, Saarland, Saarbrücken: A doctor takes a smear test at the drive-in test station organized by the German Armed Forces in a hall of the former Saarbrücken Trade Fair Centre. People who have a referral can come on foot or by car to have swabs taken for the test for the corona virus. Photo: Oliver Dietze/dpa (Photo by Oliver Dietze/picture alliance via Getty Images)
A girl with her father cross an empty road during a government-imposed lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Allahabad on March 24, 2020. (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP) (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP via Getty Images)
MINSK, BELARUS - MARCH 24, 2020: Teachers Yekaterina Metelskaya (L) and Anastasia Studentsova give an online lesson via video link with first-grade pupils as the Stembridge Private School switches to distance learning amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Natalia Fedosenko/TASS (Photo by Natalia Fedosenko\TASS via Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 24: A man walks down Buchanan Street as the country goes into lockdown on March 24, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon along with British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced strict lockdown measures last night urging people to stay at home and only leave the house for basic food shopping, exercise once a day and essential travel to and from work. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to at least 182 countries, claiming over 10,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Skegness pier is closed, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)
Medical workers stretch a patient from an Italian Red Cross ambulance into an intensive care unit set up in a sports center outside the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, during the COVID-19 new coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)
The empty public transport station "Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse" is seen as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Berlin, Germany, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Want a coronavirus test? If you have money and know the right doctor, not a problem
A picture shows intensive care units with respiratory aid machines set up under a tent at a military field hospital at the Emile Muller Hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, on March 22, 2020, on the seventh day of a lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) in France. (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP via Getty Images)
LEEDS, - MARCH 23: A children's playground lays dormant as Leeds City Council temporarily closes all of it's playgrounds though parks will still remain open for recreation, on March 23, 2020 in Leeds, United Kingdom. Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to at least 182 countries, claiming over 10,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more across the globe. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A passenger walks with the luggage, as Italy tightens measures to try and contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Rome's Termini train station, Italy March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria
French rescue team wearing protective suits evacuate a patient from Mulhouse hospital as France faces an aggressive progression of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 21: Policemen patrol with motorcycles at the Trocadero Square as the Eiffel Tower is seen in the background following the lockdown due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Paris, France on March 21, 2020. The death toll from the coronavirus in France hit 450, with 78 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to health authorities Friday. (Photo by Julien Mattia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A staff checks temperature of a kid, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at Yangon central railway station in Yangon on March 21, 2020. (Photo by Shwe Paw Mya Tin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Aerial view of San Ysidro port of entry at the Mexico-US border as seen from Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on March 21, 2020. - The United States and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travel across their border because of the coronavirus outbreak, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday. US President Donald Trump said the move, similar to one already announced with northern neighbor Canada, was necessary to prevent the "spread the infection to our border agents, migrants, and to the public at large." (Photo by Guillermo Arias / AFP) (Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Staff at work at the Samaritan's Purse field hospital that is being set up in Cremona, Italy, Saturday, March 21, 2020. A Christian evangelical group headed by the son of the late televangelist Billy Graham has sent a field hospital to northern Italy to tend to coronavirus patients, joining China in offering aid to Italy's overwhelmed health care system. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Volunteers from Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT) sprayed disinfectant liquid to prevent the spread of the Corona virus (COVID-19) at one of the Churches in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Saturday (3/21/2020). The Indonesian government said that as of 21 March 2020 450 people in Indonesia were positive for the Corona virus and 38 people had died due to the virus. (Photo by Mohamad Hamzah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A man wearing face mask, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, walk past the pagoda in Yangon on March 21, 2020. (Photo by Shwe Paw Mya Tin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Enfermeiro fotografa impacto do coronavírus nos hospitais da Itália
Vesselin Mareshki, right, leader of Bulgarian Political party Volya, and an MP from from his party wear protective suits during Parliamentary session in the Bulgarian National Assembly in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Friday March 20, 2020. For some people the COVID-19 coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for some it can cause very severe illness.(AP Photo/Vesselin Borishev)
A man wearing a face mask walks in the open air market of Belleville, in Paris, Friday, March 20, 2020. French President Emmanuel Macron said that for 15 days starting at noon on Tuesday, people will be allowed to leave the place they live only for necessary activities such as shopping for food, going to work or taking a walk. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Sri Lankan airforce personnel spray disinfectant as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus outside Fort Railway Station in Colombo on March 18, 2020. (Photo by LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP) (Photo by LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP via Getty Images)
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Dr Harries said: "For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea.

"What tends to happen is people will have one mask. They won't wear it all the time, they will take it off when they get home, they will put it down on a surface they haven't cleaned.

Salisbury incident
Dr Jenny Harries advised against the general public wearing face masks (Andrew Matthews/PA)

"Or they will be out and they haven't washed their hands, they will have a cup of coffee somewhere, they half hook it off, they wipe something over it.

"In fact, you can actually trap the virus in the mask and start breathing it in."

Asked if people are putting themselves more at risk by wearing masks, Dr Harries said: "Because of these behavioural issues, people can adversely put themselves at more risk than less."

Dr Harries said people should wear masks when they are advised to by healthcare workers, particularly if they have tested positive for Covid-19, as it can "prevent any virus from coming out".

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if they are taking care of a person with a suspected coronavirus infection.

WHO said masks are only effective when used in combination with frequent hand washing, and must be disposed of properly.

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