Government urged to take stance on face masks

The Government is “yet to take a positive stance” on the use of face masks for the general public, one expert has said.

While the Prime Minister has insisted that social distancing “must be maintained”, he did not mention the use of face coverings during his address to the nation.

One academic who has backed the use of face coverings for the general public, said that the use of masks – alongside hand-washing – could help the public ease out of lockdown more safely.

Coronavirus – Fri Apr 17, 2020
Passengers wear protective masks on buses in London (Sterfan Rousseau/PA)

In his speech, the Boris Johnson said that the public “must and will maintain social distancing”.

Mr Johnson also said that fines for breaching the rules would increase, adding: “You must obey the rules on social distancing and to enforce those rules we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them.”

But he did not mention masks during his speech setting out “road map for reopening society”.

Commenting on the announcement, Trish Greenhalgh, professor of primary care at the University of Oxford, said: “The Government has yet to take a positive stance on face coverings, which – in addition to continuing handwashing – is probably the one public health measure that could enable us to ease out of lockdown more safely.”

Babak Javid, professor at the Tsinghua University School of Medicine in Beijing and a consultant in infectious diseases at Cambridge University hospitals, added: “As more workers will be returning to employment, measures that reduce transmission such as use of face coverings or masks when commuting to, and at work, especially work indoors under conditions that physical distancing may be difficult would be welcome.

“To have substantial impact, the majority of the population would need to comply in mask usage.”

The Prime Minister said that more details of the road map would be published on Monday in Parliament.

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