Following the prime minister’s address to the nation on the 10th May, new guidance advising the public to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, including shops, has led to a dramatic spike in people searching for face masks online.
A mandatory requirement in many countries, the World Health Organisations first recommended the use of face masks in public at the beginning of April as the coronavirus spread globally.
In addition, Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, warned of a shortage risk for the NHS if the public were to start purchasing masks on a large scale.
Now, for the first time, people in England are being advised to cover their face when in enclosed spaces with those that they may not regularly come in contact with.
The policy shift brings the UK in line with Scotland which already recommends people wear face coverings when in shops and on public transport. North Ireland also advises residents to cover their faces in spaces where social distancing cannot be followed whilst Wales does not recommend any coverings.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says the amended guidance is based on advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) after consideration of the latest scientific evidence which suggests face coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances.
Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, comments: “Wearing a face covering is an added precaution, that may have some benefit in reducing the likelihood that a person with the infection passes it on.
Health Minister Jo Churchill says: “Today, thanks to the evidence provided by our expert scientists, we are advising people to consider wearing a face covering if they can in enclosed public spaces where social distancing is impossible, for example on public transport or in shops. This may help prevent you spreading the virus to others.
The government says it will not supply face coverings centrally to the public, stating that the items and fabrics needed are readily available on the market.