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Wearing face masks in all offices and working environments should be mandatory unless you are working alone, the British Medical Association (BMA) has urged.
Publishing recommendations to safeguard public health amid the pandemic, the UK doctors’ trade union body said the public was in danger of losing faith in coronavirus measures due to the government’s “inconsistent” messaging.
It added that clearer, stronger measures were needed to control the spread of the Covid-19, as the government prepares to unveil a three-tiered system of coronavirus restrictions on Monday.
The BMA’s chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, criticised the government’s messaging after the lifting of the initial lockdown and said it 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.”
The BMA also said vulnerable people should be provided with medical-grade masks that protect the wearer, as well as preventing transmission. The World Health Organization has recommended this course of action.
Surgical or medical-grade masks filter more of the droplets that may contain the virus from the air as the wearer breathes. Some studies suggest a single-layer cloth mask filters only about 3% and a triple-layer cloth mask about 60%. A medical mask will stop 86%.
The BMA also recommended that people on low incomes and benefits recipients should also be supplied with masks. As should those eligible for free prescriptions, or with children eligible for free school meals, it urged.
Nagpaul said there was inconsistency in directions relating to the wearing of face masks and how and when to mix socially.
It comes after the prime minister, Boris Johnson, struggled to explain the lockdown rules and public trust in the government was severely dented by Dominic Cummings’ trip with his wife and child to Durham.
As coronavirus cases rise steeply, in step with growing hospital admissions, the BMA’s recommendations include: modifying the “rule of six” so only two households can meet, ideally outdoors rather than indoors; providing financial support to businesses to make their premises Covid secure and enhancing the NHS test-and-trace app to provide more detailed information about the infection rates locally.
It also called for mask-wearing to be mandatory in all working environments, and stronger guidance for people to wear masks outside where 2-metre distancing is not possible.
In June, the World Health Organization changed its advice on face masks, saying they could provide “a barrier for potentially infectious droplets” after previously arguing there was not enough evidence to say healthy people should wear masks.
There is scepticism among some members of the public about mask-wearing. Some believe that virus particles are many times smaller than the fibres in the fabric of a face mask, and that they can prevent oxygen from being easily inhaled.
However, the WHO has said fabric masks should consist of at least three layers of different material to be effective. The overwhelming majority of coronavirus transmissions occur indoors, studies suggest.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said government 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,” she said.
“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 that nearly 700,000 people “who may otherwise have unknowingly spread coronavirus” have been contacted via NHS test and trace and told to isolate.
However, most people in the UK who have Covid-19 or are a contact of someone who has tested positive fail to fully self-isolate, the government’s scientific advisers have warned.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Make masks compulsory in UK workplaces, urges BMA | World news