Now is 'not the right moment' for compulsory mask wearing, Grant Shapps says

17 April 2020, 09:20

The Transport Secretary was speaking to LBC
The Transport Secretary was speaking to LBC. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told LBC the Government's medical and scientific advisers have been asked to present their work on plans to lift restrictions "in two weeks' time".

The Transport Secretary has said now is "not the right moment" to encourage people to wear masks in public following comments by Sadiq Khan, he also spoke out on the coronavirus lockdown and plans to lift restrictions.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, Mr Shapps said: "We need to take this in the round and look at all of the evidence. So it is not the right moment to instruct people, as I saw the London Mayor do this morning, to wear them if we are not certain yet that they are going to be advantageous.

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"In fact, he wrote to me about this and said in his letter he recognises that it could be counterproductive, so I don't think we should be in that space right at this moment."

Mr Shapps added: "I'm slightly confused by the approach and I will be writing back to him simply to say we've got the subcommittee of Sage, that's the scientific advisory emergency committee, who are looking at this at the moment - so let's let them tell us which is the best scientific approach because there are pluses and minuses to wearing masks."

London's Mayor Sadiq Khan is lobbying the Government to change its advice on wearing face coverings to add "another layer of protection" to members of the public.

Mr Khan told reporters: "In those circumstances where we can't keep our social distance, we can't keep two metres apart, think about when you're using public transport and you really have to, or you're in a shop and you can't keep two metres apart.

"Wearing a non-medical facial covering makes it less likely you may inadvertently give somebody else Covid-19.

"I want a consistent approach across the country, we don't want mixed messaging.

"So I'm lobbying the Government's experts and the Government, want them to change their advice and change their guidance so we can have this additional layer of protection."

Mr Khan said he had provided the Government with evidence from "colleagues around the world", which he said it was "looking at".

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On the exit strategy, he said: "We've said now that this three-week period will contain a review by the scientists at the end of this month, so that's actually only two weeks away, whilst they'll be reviewing this.

"And I hope we'll be in a position to provide, well I know we'll be in a position to provide, greater clarity."

Mr Shapps added that the Cabinet has asked its medical and scientific advisers to present their work on plans to lift restrictions "in two weeks' time".

On people driving somewhere to exercise during the lockdown, Mr Shapps said: "Actually, why do it if you don't need to, if you can just go out your house and take that exercise straight from home?"

Asked about Captain Tom Moore, he added: "I'm not in charge of Her Majesty's honours list but I have to say he's lifted the nation at a time of much need."