Masks should be mandatory outdoors and in offices, say doctors

10 October 2020, 10:58 | Updated: 10 October 2020, 11:37

Doctors want the wearing of protective face masks to be made mandatory inside offices and all working environments, unless people are working alone.

The British Medical Association said stronger measures are needed to halt the spread of the virus, including mask wearing being made mandatory outdoors as well, in settings where social distancing is impossible.

The doctors' trade union body has published a list of recommendations it says could reduce the nation's level of infection while providing people with the confidence they need to go out safely and boost the economy.

The BMA's recommendations include:

- Changing the Rule of Six to allow only two households to meet, and those should not exceed 6 people, ideally outdoors rather than indoors;

- Making the wearing of face masks mandatory in all offices and working environments, unless you are working alone;

- Making people wear masks in all outdoor settings where two-metre distancing is not possible;

- Providing financial support to businesses, retail and hospitality settings to enable them to make premises Covid secure and provide clear rules on what 'Covid secure' means;

- Providing medical grade masks, free of charge, to those who are over 60 or in a vulnerable group, as recommended by the World Health Organisation;

- Providing masks free of charge to those who are exempt from prescription charges and also at the entrance of all public settings if a person has not brought one;

- Adding more functionality to the NHS Test and Trace app to give people more detailed information on infection rates in their area including actual figures of rates of infection and trends.

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Women wearing face masks as doctors say they should be mandatory outdoors and in offices
Women wearing face masks as doctors say they should be mandatory outdoors and in offices. Picture: PA

The BMA's council chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said the inconsistency of the Government's messaging once the first lockdown was lifted had played a part in the resurgence of the virus.

He said: "The infection has risen following rapid relaxation of measures and with the Westminster Government letting down its guard - as recently as August, the Government was encouraging people to travel, go to work and mix in restaurants and pubs."

"The Government has a duty to regain the public's confidence and faith in measures being taken to get the spread of the virus back under control. It must also provide the financial support businesses need to enable them to make premises and settings Covid secure while providing clear rules on what 'Covid secure' means."

Dr Nagpaul added there was "inconsistency" in directions relating to the wearing of facemasks and how and when to mix socially.

He said: "With admissions to hospitals for Covid climbing rapidly in parts of England, there is an opportunity for the Westminster Government to bring in simple stronger restrictions alongside the introduction of its ... three-tiered approach.

"We have drawn on a range of expertise from within the BMA to publish a set of recommendations which we feel, if introduced very quickly, could have a positive effect."

"We know that with the right public behaviour and renewed public confidence, the infection can be brought under control, given that we had less than 500 new cases a day in mid-July.

"We are having to swallow a very bitter pill of the infection continuing to spread at a perilous rate.

"Stronger measures brought in now could be a far sweeter pill in the long run for far more people."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the Government's measures have been guided by the advice of experts "at every stage" of the pandemic.

"We have been clear from the outset that public compliance with self-isolation rules and social distancing measures is absolutely crucial to preventing the spread of the virus.

"We have introduced financial support to help people self-isolate and simplified social distancing rules, through the rule of six and our 'Hands. Face. Space' campaign ... our response ensured the NHS was not overwhelmed even at the virus' peak, so that everyone was always able to get the best possible care.

She added nearly 700,000 people "who may otherwise have unknowingly spread coronavirus" have been contacted via NHS Test and Trace and told to isolate.