‘Make masks mandatory in offices and outside’, doctors tell government
Written by on 10 October 2020
Masks should be mandatory indoors and outdoors where two-metre social distancing is not possible, doctors have said.
Publishing a wish list of recommendations for ministers, the British Medical Association (BMA) accused the government of “letting down its guard” and said “inconsistent” messaging since the nationwide lockdown was lifted had played a part in the resurgence of the virus.
Chairman of the doctors’ trade union body, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “We are having to swallow a very bitter pill of the infection continuing to spread at a perilous rate.
“Stronger measures brought in now could be a far sweeter pill in the long run for far more people.”
The BMA’s recommendations include:
- Modifying the current “Rule of Six” with the rule that only two households can meet, and those should not exceed six people, ideally outdoors rather than indoors
- Making the wearing of face masks mandatory in all offices and working environments, unless you are working alone
- Making people wear masks in all outdoor settings where two-metre social distancing is not possible
- Providing financial support to businesses, retail and hospitality settings to enable them to make premises COVID secure and provide clear rules on what “COVID secure” means
- Providing medical grade masks, free of charge, to those who are over 60 or in a vulnerable group, as recommended by the World Health Organisation
- Providing masks free of charge to those who are exempt from prescription charges and also at the entrance of all public settings if a person has not brought one
- Adding more functionality to the NHS Test and Trace app to give people more detailed information on infection rates in their area including actual figures of rates of infection and trends
‘Our critical care beds are filling up again’
The recommendations come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to unveil a new three-tiered system of coronavirus restrictions on Monday.
The point about masks was backed by Professor Calum Semple, an expert in outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool and a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
He told Sky News: “At the start of the outbreak, we didn’t really understand much about this virus and nobody else did, but we now appreciate the importance of face coverings and masks in an indoor environment, particularly where ventilation cannot be guaranteed.
“In reality, if you’re outside walking your dog on your own and you’re many metres away from other people then wearing a mask is making no difference.
“But if you’re in a city centre shopping precinct, or you’re queueing outside the shops then yes, you should be wearing a mask.”
Chairman of the doctors’ trade union body, Dr Nagpaul added: “The infection has risen following rapid relaxation of measures and with the Westminster government letting down its guard – as recently as August, the government was encouraging people to travel, go to work and mix in restaurants and pubs.
“With admissions to hospitals for COVID climbing rapidly in parts of England, there is an opportunity for the Westminster government to bring in simple stronger restrictions alongside the introduction of its… three-tiered approach.”
‘Hospitality is 30% of the infection rate’
England is expected to be carved into three different lockdown tiers next week, with millions of people facing tougher restrictions as the government tries to get a handle on rising coronavirus cases and hospital admissions.
A total of 13,864 new coronavirus cases were reported in the UK on Friday, along with another 87 deaths.
The UK’s coronavirus reproduction (R) number fell slightly to between 1.2 and 1.5 – down from between 1.3 and 1.6 last week, according to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
However, SAGE said it was almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow exponentially across the country, and confident that the transmission is not slowing.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the government’s measures have been guided by the advice of experts “at every stage” of the pandemic.
“We have been clear from the outset that public compliance with self-isolation rules and social distancing measures is absolutely crucial to preventing the spread of the virus.
How effective is the contact- tracing app?
“We have introduced financial support to help people self-isolate and simplified social distancing rules, through the rule of six and our ‘Hands. Face. Space’ campaign… our response ensured the NHS was not overwhelmed even at the virus’ peak, so that everyone was always able to get the best possible care.
She added nearly 700,000 people “who may otherwise have unknowingly spread coronavirus” have been contacted via NHS Test and Trace and told to isolate.
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