- The UK government is set to tell Brits to wear face coverings in certain settings outside the house, according to The Sun.
- UK scientists met Tuesday and reportedly agreed that Brits should cover their faces in places like work or public transport where social distancing is impossible.
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has so far opted against instructing people to wear masks.
- There are concerns that the UK is already running out of masks and other personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, and the new guidance would reportedly be designed to discourage the public from trying to acquire hospital masks.
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The UK government is reportedly preparing to tell people to wear face coverings in some public places to try to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has resisted calls to recommend the public use of face masks, saying that such a mitigation strategy is not fully supported by scientific evidence.
UK scientists met Tuesday to discuss the matter, however, and are now set to tell the government that people should wear face coverings at work and on public transport, where social distancing can be impossible, The Sun reports.
The Sun said the UK scientists advising the government – known collectively as SAGE – had come to believe that face coverings could help stop asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus from passing it to other people.
While certain types of face masks – which are meant to be replaced frequently – were always considered crucial for healthcare workers, the World Health Organisation’s original position was that there was no evidence to suggest their use by the public would help stop the coronavirus’ spread in a meaningful way. WHO has since said, however, that face coverings could keep people from passing the virus to others, though they could not stop the wearers from catching the virus.
Other countries have U-turned on the question of whether their citizens should wear masks.
After originally saying there was no evidence to justify masks’ use, France’s Academy Of Medicine earlier this month issued new instructions to French people to wear masks whenever leaving their homes.
The Sun said Johnson’s government was set to advise people that they could wear coverings such as scarves and homemade masks to save hospital masks for the National Health Service staff.
It comes amid warnings that the UK is already running out of masks and other safety equipment, known as PPE, to provide for doctors, nurses, and other staff working in the NHS.
The Financial Times reported this week that figures in the PPE industry said they would not be able to cope with a change in government advice leading to the general public seeking face masks.
Sam Gompels, the owner of the PPE distributor HealthCare, told the Financial Times there was “absolutely no way” the PPE market would be able to meet an increased demand of safety equipment.
The UK government’s system for procuring PPE like masks from manufacturers has also been heavily criticised.
Business Insider reported on Tuesday that a supplier based in Liverpool last month offered the Department of Health & Social Care 10 million face masks to provide to the NHS. However, the department was too slow to respond to the offer, meaning the masks were sold to other countries like Germany.
The Guardian reported that the UK government missed opportunities to secure 16 million masks over the past four weeks.