FACE masks should be mandatory outdoors and in offices to beat coronavirus, leading medics said
The British Medical Association is pushing for measures it says could reduce the level of Covid infection – while giving people the confidence to go out safely and boost the economy.
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This includes making it compulsory to wear face masks in all offices and work environments, unless you are working alone – a measure the government says it is “considering”.
The BMA also says people over the age of 60 or belonging to vulnerable groups should receive medical-grade masks free of charge.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul – Chairman of the Board of the BMA – told The Times: “It is clear that most workplaces were never designed for people to work two meters apart.
“The rules should absolutely be that where you are likely to interact with each other within two meters, you wear a mask indoors.
“In some contexts, you will inevitably be in a situation where you meet or mingle with other people at that distance.”
Dr Nagpaul criticized Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, who said mandatory masks in offices “will be considered”.
“You have to do more than consider – now you have to act,” he said.
Masks are already mandatory on public transport, train stations, airports, and shops, and they should be worn in cafes, pubs, bars, and restaurants before sitting down.
The BMA also said people should be required to wear masks in all outdoor environments where social distancing is not possible.
Dr Nagpaul said he frequently saw people within two meters at bus stops or outside stores chatting with each other without masks.
The spread of infection “does not happen by magic, but because people are close to each other”.
The government is preparing to unveil a new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions on Monday.
Dr Nagpaul said it was possible to introduce stronger measures to prevent the NHS from being crippled this winter.
“We know that with good public behavior and increased public confidence, the infection can be brought under control, as we had fewer than 500 new cases per day in mid-July.
“We have to swallow a very bitter pill from the infection which continues to spread at a perilous rate.
“Stronger measures taken now could be a much softer pill in the long run for many more people. “
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A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs said the government’s measures had been guided by expert advice “at every stage” of the pandemic.
“We were clear from the start that public compliance with self-isolation rules and social distancing measures is absolutely essential to prevent the spread of the virus. ”
She added that nearly 700,000 people “who might otherwise have spread coronavirus without knowing it” have been contacted via NHS Test and Trace and ordered to self-isolate.