There are no plans to make masks mandatory for office workers in England, said Matt Hancock.
The health secretary told the BBC that people working in offices would not need to cover themselves, despite a newspaper report suggesting that they would.
“It is something that we have looked at and rejected,” he said, but additional masks would be worn elsewhere by the public “for the foreseeable future.”
Face covers in stores will become mandatory in England on July 24.
Scotland is already asking buyers to cover their faces, while Wales and Northern Ireland are both considering similar policies.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson engaged for the first time in an “independent investigation” into the government’s management of the pandemic.
Hancock said that face covers help prevent spread during short interactions with strangers, but that social estrangement and hand washing are more effective in contacting people over long periods.
There is a difference between visiting a store for a few minutes and working with colleagues at an office for several hours, he told BBC Breakfast.
“When you are close to a person with whom you have to work closely, if you have been there for a long time, then a mask does not offer this protection. “
“The same logic applies to schools – we do not recommend masks for schools because if you are in a classroom with children all day, a mask does not protect you,” he added. .
Hancock said face covers work “in a store or on public transportation, for example, when you’re with someone for a reasonable period of time – a few minutes – but not all day.”
“The point is that when you’re interacting with people you’re not normally with, that’s where the mask can be particularly useful. ”
He added: “We are not proposing to extend the masks to the offices”.
Labor leader spokesman Sir Keir Starmer said the party was not demanding the compulsory wearing of face covers in offices “at this stage”.
Speaking on Wednesday during Prime Minister’s questions in the House of Commons, Johnson said the government was “busy preparing for a new potential spike” and “was committing to record investments in the NHS ”.
Prime Minister then praised UK coronavirus testing and tracing program as “as good or better than” any system in the world, although Sir Keir questioned its success in achieving self-isolation for people .
Mr. Hancock’s comments came as a council in Blackburn, Lancashire, told residents that they should wear face covers in all public places because it worked to fight a “rising tide” coronavirus cases.
Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health, said he hoped the use of coatings, along with other specific measures, would prevent a local Leicester-style foreclosure in the region.
Leicester was the first local lockout in the UK on July 4 after an outbreak of Covid-19. There are limits to social gatherings and hotels, pubs and restaurants have not been allowed to reopen.
Meanwhile. questions continue to be asked about the use of masks by politicians.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Hancock said he was “not frankly interested” in the photographs showing apparent differences in ministers’ use of face covers.
Photos of Cabinet Minister Michael Gove showed him without covering his face when buying food at a Pret branch on Tuesday, while business secretary Liz Truss was seen in the same store a few minutes later wearing a bright blue mask.
Hancock said, “These photographs were taken before I announced the policy change in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon.
“And it is absolutely simple that from July 24 we make it compulsory to wear a face cover in a store in the same way as it is compulsory in public transport and in the NHS. “
Hancock said the public should get used to wearing face covers in NHS stores and facilities “for the foreseeable future.”
“People have to play their part,” he said.
“Wear masks now”
It happens that residents and visitors to York are asked to “wear masks now” before they become mandatory for buyers on July 24.
Health officials in the historic city said there was “more and more evidence of the value of wearing face covers.”
As of July 24, those who fail to comply with the new rules for wearing face cover in UK stores will be fined up to £ 100.
Children under the age of 11, people with disabilities and people working in shops will be exempt.
Hancock said in the House of Commons Tuesday that the new rule “would give people more confidence to shop safely and strengthen protections for those who work in stores.”
The wearing of the mask has been compulsory on public transport in England and at NHS facilities across the United Kingdom since June 15.
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