People should start wearing face masks now – and not just on public transport, doctors sayIvy Madziva
Coronavirus: People should start wearing face masks now – and not just on public transport, doctors say.
The British Medical Association says the policy shouldn’t be restricted to public transport – and it should be enforced now.
“Given there remains a considerable risk of infection, with thousands of new cases every day, wearing masks can reduce the spread of the virus.
“Not only will this afford greater protection to the public, importantly it will protect the lives of the staff working on public transport who, as evidence suggests, are at greater risk of infection.”
Dr Nagpaul has also called for the government to provide a supply of face coverings to the public, and offer advice on how they can be used correctly.
Face coverings can include scarves, a piece of cloth or a mask – and certain travellers, such as young children and people with disabilities or breathing difficulties, will be exempt.
At the moment, passengers are advised to wear a face covering but are not prevented from boarding transport without one.
Announcing the plans, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said “we need to ensure every precaution is taken” as England relaxes the lockdown further, and passenger numbers start to increase once again.
The government says face coverings are “marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure”.
Evidence suggests they do not protect the wearer, but may protect other people if he or she is infected with COVID-19.
According to official advice, surgical masks should be reserved for people who need them for protection while at work.
London mayor Sadiq Khan, who has been lobbying ministers to make face coverings mandatory, said the government has “finally seen sense”.
He added that there is “a large body of evidence” that they can help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
London mayor Sadiq Khan says the government ‘has finally seen sense’
Asked why face-coverings were being made comulsory on public transport but not in other settings, such as supermarkets, Mr Shapps told Sky News: “The big difference on public transport is that you’ll likely to be stuck in a space for a longer period of time, whereas in a supermarket you might go past somebody quite quickly.
“So it is also a factor of the amount of time you spend with somebody.
“On public transport you could be there for 10 to 20 minutes, half an hour or longer, so that actually becomes more important.
“It has been quite a marginal scientific argument, on balance we think that now the trains, buses, trams and aircrafts are likely to be more congested than before, it’s a sensible, additional precuationary measure.
“But certainly not a magic, silver bullet thing to do.
“It’s also important to note, when you wear a mask, you’re actually protecting those around you a bit, as well as yourself.
“So it’s quite a public-spirited, altruistic thing to do as well.”
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said it was “another example of the government being slow to act”, adding: “Two months ago, Labour immediately backed the mayor of London’s call for face coverings on public transport to be compulsory.
“Yet only now Tory ministers are acting.”
Transport unions echoed the criticism of the government – describing the measures as “long overdue”.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “We fear this announcement is being driven not by safety concerns but by the premature easing of the lockdown which is swelling passenger numbers and making social distancing on transport increasingly impossible.”
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