BORIS Johnson has said the public will be asked to wear face masks when lockdown measures are lifted as they are “useful”.
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He said a full announcement was going to be made next week as part of his plans to finally start ending Britain’s lockdown.
In tonight’s No10 briefing he said: “I do think face coverings will be useful, both for epidemiological reasons, but also for giving people confidence that they can go back to work.
“And you will hear more about that next week.”
But ministers are likely to stress they should only use “face coverings” and not full surgical masks like the NHS do.
Whitehall sources have insisted they don’t want to recommend anything which takes away vital PPE from the frontline in hospitals and care homes.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said this evening: “I am pleased that the Prime Minister has said that non-medical face coverings will play an important role as we eventually look to lift lockdown restrictions.
“This is something I and others have been pushing the Government to change the guidance on.”
Today’s news from the PM comes just 24 hours after Michael Gove became the first minister to insist that face coverings did have some effect on slowing the spread, but they feared it would stop Brits from staying apart.
He told a Committee of MPs: “The scientific evidence so far is that face coverings can have an effect in preventing an individual from spreading the disease to others if they have it and they’re asymptomatic.
“But there is also a worry that some people may think that wearing a mask protects themselves as opposed to protecting others and therefore they may behave in a manner that is slightly more cavalier, so it’s a finely balanced judgement.”
It comes as:
- UK coronavirus death toll hits 26,771 as 674 more die
- Boris promises plan next week for lockdown exit as we pass peak
- PM reveals Gov is still nearly 20,000 test short of their target
- Boris ruled out more austerity measures to pay for the coronavirus crisis
Earlier this week Mr Gove also revealed the Government will build a stockpile of face masks for Brits to wear while shopping and using public transport.
Mr Gove announced the move after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recommended that people use scarves and t-shirts to cover up their faces.
Breaking ranks with the Government’s official line on masks, she announced this week that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had concluded a face covering would probably help to slow the spread of the virus in confined spaces, like on trains.
Our story highlighted how ministers are likely to tell the nation to use something as simple as a scarf when at work, in shops or on public transport.
The Government’s top scientists met last week to decide on the face-covering move to help stop the coronavirus spread, amid fears that social distancing will roll into 2021 and chances of a vaccine within a year are slim.
This evening Boris Johnson promised an extensive plan to end the lockdown would come next week – as Britain is now “past the peak” of the virus.
As he led the No10 briefing tonight for the first time since his own coronavirus fight, he braced Britain for weeks more shutdown to keep the rate of transmission low.
The PM was extremely cautious about making any changes too soon, which could cause another spike in cases.
He said next week’s roadmap will plan how to get people back to work and children back to school, while still suppressing the disease.
A “huge amount of work” has already gone into the blueprint, he said.
However, he stressed he will only be making tweaks to the lockdown rules if the R rate of transmission – the number of people one other person infects – stays low.
“Scientists around the world have been tracking the R of corona since start,” he told the nation.
“In March, at its peak, R was around 3 which seems to be natural rate of the virus.
“Thanks to you we’ve been able to reduce R and it is now below 1.
“We’ve only just passed the peak of virus – and its vital R stays below 1. The Government will be monitoring R very closely.”
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