Backlash over delay in coronavirus face masks advice despite Boris Johnson admitting they can be ‘useful’ in shops and on trains
- Boris Johnson said last night face coverings will be ‘useful’ in easing lockdown
- But the UK government has still not formally changed its advice to the public
- Nicola Sturgeon has already urged Scots to wear coverings in enclosed spaces
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Ministers are facing demands to spell out their advice on face coverings after Boris Johnson said they would be ‘useful’ as lockdown ends.
Nicola Sturgeon has already urged Scots to don home-made masks – but not medical-grade ones – in shops and on public transport.
Labour has also been pushing for the move, with London mayor Sadiq Khan calling for the recommendation.
But the UK government has so far refused to change its position, having previously said it did not advise wearing coverings. Downing Street said that work on then policy is still ongoing – despite scientific advisers having conveyed their verdict to ministers last week.
Ministers are facing demands to spell out their advice on face coverings after Boris Johnson said they would be ‘useful’ as lockdown ends. PIctured, a man shops in London this week
Speaking at the daily Downing Street coronavirus press conference last night, Mr Johnson said wearing of face coverings in public will be ‘useful’ in terms of stopping the spread of the disease when restrictions are lifted
Sources told MailOnline that the PM is believed to favour issuing stronger advice, but there has been resistance from the Department of Health amid fears of shortages.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove voiced concerns earlier this week that people could become ‘cavalier’ about social distancing once they are wearing a mask.
Work is thought to be ongoing to thrash out what material people should use to create their own makeshift coverings.
In a round of broadcast interviews today, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick admitted that although the benefits of wearing medical face masks was ‘modest,’ they could help give the public confidence to return to their daily lives.
‘The advice in the past has been that face masks have only quite a modest difference from a health perspective, they do help us to protect others, and it might be particularly useful if you’re asymptomatic so you don’t know if you’ve got symptoms but you could still be spreading the virus,’ he told the BBC.
‘The benefits are modest but they might be a way of giving people confidence because many people are understandably very anxious about going out, about returning to the workplace in a safe way.’
Mr Jenrick continued: ‘It’s a personal choice, if you have a face mask it’s your choice whether you want to use them and if you walk around some of our towns and cities today you are seeing more people using them than ever before.
‘The advice today is that the difference made by a face covering is quite modest – it doesn’t make a huge difference but it does make some. So it’s your choice.’
He added that more details would be released in the Government ‘road map’ next week.
The PM’s spokesman said: ‘Ministers are still considering how we move forward with face coverings, in terms of the precise advice.
‘The advice we have received, based on the science, shows a weak but also positive effect in reducing transmission from… asymptomatic members of the public, where social distancing is not possible.
‘What ministers need to consider is how best to produce advice for the public on the next steps and that work is still ongoing.’
Speaking at the daily Downing Street coronavirus press conference last night, Mr Johnson said wearing of face coverings in public will be ‘useful’ in terms of stopping the spread of the disease when restrictions are lifted.
He also said they would give workers ‘confidence’ that it is safe for them to venture out, use public transport and go back to their jobs.
‘I think what SAGE is saying and what I certainly agree with is that as part of coming out of the lockdown I do think that face coverings will be useful both for epidemiological reasons but also for giving people confidence they can go back to work.
‘You are going to be hearing more about that and that kind of thing next week.’
Mr Johnson has promised to set out a ‘comprehensive plan’ within the next seven days telling the nation how lockdown will be eased.
The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has been considering the evidence in recent weeks relating to the wearing of facemasks.
Nicola Sturgeon (pictured at a briefing in Edinburgh today) has already urged Scots to don home-made masks – but not medical-grade ones – in shops and on public transport
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