WHETHER or not people should be wearing face masks has become one of the fiercest debates of the coronavirus outbreak.
Many countries have made it mandatory to wear them in public – with experts claiming they help stop those with Covid-19 from spreading it.
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However, ministers have dismissed the idea here – until recently – saying masks give little protection and a false sense of security.
Some experts have warned there is an increased risk of infection if people do not use face masks correctly or take care when removing them.
Dr Hilary Jones, one of the UK's most trusted GPs, told The Sun that for people who are well and just going out, there is no evidence masks are of any benefit.
He added: "Only high-quality ones are worth having anyway — and because people put their hands to their face more often when wearing ineffective masks they can do more harm than good."
Despite this, droves of doctors and scientists say face masks can protect people from catching the virus and stop infected people from passing it on.
Prof Benjamin Cowling, from Hong Kong University, said: “If face masks are used on a lot of people in crowded areas, I think it would have some effect on public transmission, and at the moment we’re looking for every small measure we can to reduce transmission – it adds up.”
Currently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says only people who are showing symptoms or caring for coronavirus patients should wear them.
However, WHO's main adviser David Heymann recently said he believes "wearing a mask is equally effective or more effective than distancing."
Brits could soon be ordered to wear a face mask in public after new evidence prompted officials to consider a major U-turn.
And a review is under way after "persuasive" evidence emerged that they help stop those with the virus spreading it.
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Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty last night confirmed that discussions about public use of face masks were a "very live issue."
He added: "What we are really trying to do is to work out under what circumstances, if any, should we extend the advice."
According to the Daily Mail, one idea favoured by the government for when Britain begins to lift its lockdown is the use of protective equipment at work.
Those working indoors – including office and factory workers – could be ordered to socially distance and to wear face masks and gloves, the paper says.
It comes as London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for Londoners to wear face masks outside – including on public transport.
Mr Khan told BBC Radio 4: "The point I'm making to Government experts and to Government is i think advice should change."
"Advice should change so in those circumstances where it's not possible to keep social distancing – think of public transport, think of when you' re in a shop – we should use non medical facial covering like bandanas, like scarves, like reusable masks."
Mr Khan stressed wearing masks should not replace social distancing, but should be used where people are still having to leave home to go to work.
He added medical grade personal protective equipment should be reserved for health professionals, because "if used wrongly it can be counter-productive."
He said: "If you wear a non-medical facial covering, it doesn't necessary limit your chance of catching the virus, but if you, yourself, are pre-symptomatic, or asymptomatic, it reduces the change of you giving the virus to someone else."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned last week that members of the public wearing masks risked increasing shortages for NHS staff
on the front line.
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Professor Whitty said he remained concerned that advising the public to wear masks could lead to shortages.
NHS heroes fighting on the frontline against coronavirus say they've been forced to buy their own protective equipment from DIY stores.
And data from the NHSppe app, created to track shortages of PPE, found that 52 per cent of doctors lacked the correct gowns for high risk procedures.
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