Sage member calls for government to explain benefits of mask wearing to public

13 July 2021, 07:30

The professor was speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari
The professor was speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari. Picture: LBC
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A Sage adviser has told LBC the government needs to educate the public on the benefits of mask-wearing.

On Monday Boris Johnson confirmed the easing of coronavirus restrictions will go ahead but warned things would not go straight back to normal, saying: "We cannot simply revert instantly... to life as it was before Covid".

The government's decision means from Monday, July 19 social distancing rules will end and wearing face masks will no longer be compulsory, although venues such as nightclubs are being urged to require "Covid certification" as a condition of entry.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast Professor John Drury said the government was sending a "strong signal" by dropping "legal enforcement".

"When it is legally enforced it tells us that it is very important."

Professor Dury, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) and the Independent SAGE Behavioural Advisory Group, was speaking to LBC in a personal capacity.

The professor hit out at the government suggesting "at the very least," there needed to be a program of engagement from authorities.

"Where is the communication, the dialogue, the engagement?"

He said the government needed to "explain and talk to people about how masks work, that they work."

He urged the government to educate the public that one of the most "important things" was that "masks protect others."

Boris Johnson announced the government expects and recommends face coverings to be worn in crowded areas, such as public transport.

The move marks a more cautious message to the public from Health Secretary Sajid Javid ahead of "freedom day" on July 19 in response to soaring coronavirus cases.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the legal requirement for face coverings would be scrapped and said it would "depend on the circumstances" whether or not he would continue to wear one.

He added: "I think that what we're trying to do is move from universal Government diktat to relying on people's personal responsibility.

"Clearly there's a big difference between travelling on a crowded Tube train and sitting, late at night, in a virtually empty carriage on the main railway line."

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and Chancellor Rishi Sunak both previously confirmed that they planned to stop wearing masks when it is no longer legally required.

Environment Secretary George Eustice also said he was looking forward to ditching his mask as soon as there was not a "legal compulsion" to wear one.

Charities representing people with weakened immune systems have previously expressed dismay that members of the public will be able to ditch face masks from next week.

The MS Society and Blood Cancer UK criticised the Government over the support available for those still vulnerable to the virus, adding that July 19 would not mark "freedom day" for many.