London: The U.K. government’s top scientists expressed concern enforced use of face masks in small spaces could compromise other Covid-19 prevention measures, in advance of a requirement for travelers to wear the coverings from mid-June.
In response to a government question on whether masks should be used in the community by individuals during short periods of unpreventable close contact, the scientific panel stopped short of issuing such a recommendation, according to a paper released Friday. The group said evidence of the effectiveness wasn’t available and enforced mask-wearing could result in decreased compliance with guidelines on social distancing and hand washing.
Face masks have been a source of tension in the U.K. as the government has previously declined to recommend their use in the community, in contrast to some other countries. Lawmakers have cited concerns that wider adoption could cause a shortage for health workers who have already struggled with a lack of supply.
The government broke with that stance Thursday, and from June 15 anyone refusing to cover their faces on trains, buses and other forms of public transport will face fines and could be barred from boarding.
“There is weak evidence that use of face masks by symptomatic people may reduce transmission but very limited evidence that wearing a surgical mask in the community reduces risk of acquiring infection,” the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group said in the paper from April 13. “It is possible that widespread community mask use may lead to people being less stringent in social distancing and self-isolation measures.”-Bloomberg
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