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COVID-19 - UK GOVERNMENT AND THE USE OF FACE MASKS

COVID-19 - UK GOVERNMENT AND THE USE OF FACE MASKS

By Ayrton Campbell, Founder of The N95 Mask Co



As the Government prepares for the UK’s lockdown exit, a controversial debate has been dividing scientists and other health experts on the effectiveness and importance of wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. 

To date, there have been no official guidelines on wearing a face mask but pressure is mounting as more and more countries update their rules. Our London Mayor, Mr Sadiq Khan recently urged the UK Government to change its guidelines on face masks, saying they should be worn when people cannot keep two metres apart such as on public transport or while shopping. This makes a lot of sense - we need the Government to put strict measures in place around mask-wearing so that people take it more seriously. 

The UK Government’s position on face masks  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said face coverings worn by the general public "will be useful" as the UK comes out of the current lockdown. During the outbreak, the UK Government has had difficulties sourcing medical face masks for NHS staff, hence the suggestion of ‘alternative face coverings’ such as scarves or t-shirts. 

Face mask recommendations are most commonly published when a country is preparing to reduce lockdown rules, so we expect when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces his next plans this week that there will be some guidance or recommendations on mask usage. 

So far, Germany, Austria, Poland and Turkey and six other countries have made an important decision to make wearing masks compulsory, or at least ‘highly recommended’ in closed spaces such as shops and public transport, in the interest of controlling the spread of COVID-19. 

One government minister claimed that the public will not be told to wear face masks to stop Coronavirus unless the Government’s scientists say it is necessary. On Monday 4th May 2020, the multi-disciplinary experts known as the Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics Group (DELVE) published a paper to confirm the important role that face masks play in tackling Covid-19. With this scientific evidence in the public domain, it will be interesting to see if face masks do become a mandatory requirement.