Doctors demand compulsory face masks in all UK settings
The wearing of face coverings should be extended to all settings in an effort to control the transmission of coronavirus where people cannot maintain physical distancing, according to Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Council Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA).
The Global Indian doctor, who has been campaigning over the issue for months, welcomed the recent UK government announcement that face coverings will be mandatory in shops across England from July 24. Scotland already has the rule in place and Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit. However, the BMA questions why the delay in imposing the rule and also why restrict it only to shops and supermarkets.
Dr Nagpaul said: “For months doctors at the BMA have called on the Government to stop equivocating and to ask people to wear face coverings over their mouths and noses in public places where they cannot safely socially distance. Up until now the Westminster government has refused to put in place this logical policy to prevent spread of the virus, and which has been the norm in around 120 countries globally including most of Europe – so this step is long overdue.
“However, why is it waiting another 11 days to implement this policy, when the risk from Covid-19 remains present right now? This needs to happen immediately given that each day that goes by adds to the risk of spread and endangers lives. The BMA also believes that the wearing of face coverings should be extended to all settings where people cannot maintain physical distancing.”
The BMA highlighted the latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures, which suggest there are 1,700 new cases of coronavirus in England daily, which shows a lot more needs to be done before we can say this infection is anywhere near being under long-term control.
It conducted a major survey which found that thousands of doctors overwhelmingly support the move to require mandatory face coverings for all settings where social distancing is not possible. More than 5,000 doctors in England and Wales took part in the survey and 86 per cent said it should be mandatory to wear face masks in settings where the public either cannot or will not social distance.
“The survey results tell us that doctors overwhelmingly believe the public should wear face coverings to curb the spread of the infection and prevent further local outbreaks or a second national spike, which would overwhelm the NHS as we approach the winter period,” said Dr Nagpaul.
The BMA admits that mandatory nose and mouth coverings isn’t a “fix all”, but it will significantly reduce the risk of catching the virus for millions of people and will also help the economy and the National Health Service (NHS).
“As more and more shops and social areas open, the more people will naturally want to visit them. By wearing a face covering, they reduce the risk to others and reduce the spread of a virus that has already claimed more than 40,000 lives,” explains Dr Nagpaul.
The government’s recent announcement brings England into line not only with Scotland but also other major European nations like Spain, Italy and Germany. Many scientists have been pushing for compulsory face masks, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations on the issue were also updated in favour of their use in enclosed spaces to curb the transmission of the deadly virus.
UK-based Global Indian Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan was among those who had warned that the UK was lagging behind other countries in the mandatory use of face masks to prevent the rapid spread of coronavirus.
“Just treat it as another item of clothing that is part of the new normal and wear it whenever you cannot socially distance safely. It is the right thing to do, and a small price to pay, to help keep infections down and the economy open in the pandemic,” he said.
by Nadia Hatink