UK ‘not considering’ face masks in offices after France makes them mandatory


Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government did not intend to follow France’s decision to make face covers a requirement in offices.

His comments came after France’s labor ministry said on Tuesday that face masks would be mandatory from early September in workplaces, except in private offices.

In response to a question about France’s decision, Mr Hancock told the BBC: “We are constantly reviewing scientific advice and the answer here is that we are not currently considering doing so. “

The Health Secretary said evidence from the testing and tracing program suggests most infections in the UK have been passed from household to household.

“The number of people who have caught it in the workplace is relatively low, according to the evidence available to us,” added the minister.

From the start of August, the government scrapped its advice encouraging people to work from home, instead allowing employers to choose when their staff should return to work, provided safety requirements are met.

Responding to Mr Hancock’s remarks on Wednesday, Adam Finn, professor of pediatrics at the University of Bristol, said he believes most people are happy to wear masks to protect others.

Mr Finn said: “The government may have some evidence and other reasons for not wanting to force people to do it, but I think people should at least be encouraged to wear a mask whenever they share. a space with others. “

Keith Neal, professor emeritus of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, agrees with Hancock that the risk of coronavirus transmission in offices appears low.

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Professor Neal said: “Office work has an inherent basis of social distancing. Most workplace outbreaks have occurred in food factories where temperatures are generally kept low. “

“There has been little published work in the UK identifying places where people have contracted infections. We know that transmission occurs in hospitals, in nursing homes, households and families mixing in households with overcrowded pubs like in Aberdeen. The risk in the offices must exist. but so far it has not been measured and can reasonably be considered low, ”he added.

Elsewhere, about a quarter of the 1,013 virus clusters detected in France since its lockdown eased in May have been linked to workspaces, according to the country’s national health agency.

Speaking about the new rule on face masks in offices, the Minister of Labor Elisabeth Borne it would ensure “the protection of workers’ health and the continuity of our economic activity”.

France reported a daily tally of more than 3,000 cases over the weekend and has one of the highest infection rates in Europe.

Due to the rise in the number of cases in France, the UK decided to remove France from its quarantine exemption list last week.

Agencies contributed to this report


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