In some parts of Europe people are required to wear face masks when they leave their homes, and many have questioned whether these measures could also be implemented in the UK. The Scottish Government has recently acknowledged there could be some benefit to using face masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
What is the current advice on face masks in the UK?
It is not currently compulsory for people in the UK to wear face masks in public.
However, in Scotland the official advice regarding face masks has been recently updated.
The Scottish Government website states: “The evidence on the use of face coverings is limited, but there may be some benefit in wearing a facial covering when you leave the house and enter enclosed spaces, especially where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people you do not usually meet.
“Examples include, traveling on public transport or entering a food shop where it is not always possible to maintain a 2 metre distance from another customer.
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“There is no evidence to suggest there might be a benefit outdoors, unless in an unavoidable crowded situation, where there may be some benefit.
“As some people can have the virus but experience no symptoms (asymptomatic infection), wearing a face covering in the situations outlined above may provide some level of protection against transmission to other people in close proximity.”
But the advice in Scotland is not currently mandatory.
The website adds: “We are recommending that you consider using face coverings in the limited circumstances described above as a precautionary measure.
“Given that the evidence of impact on transmission is relatively weak, the public use of facial coverings is not being made mandatory and will not be enforced at this stage.
“However, we will keep this guidance under ongoing review as we consider any easing of lockdown restrictions in the weeks ahead.”
The current guidance on social distancing and handwashing practices remain in place across the UK.
Key workers are at high risk of catching coronavirus, and follow different guidelines on the use of face masks to the rest of the public.
Personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes face masks, are being prioritised for NHS and other frontline workers at the current time.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control also agrees healthcare workers “must be given priority” over the wider community for access to these supplies.
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Should we all be wearing face masks?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued guidance relating to face masks and COVID-19.
Although some countries recommend you wear a mask at all times in public, the WHO does not recommend the same.
According to the WHO website, you only need to wear a face mask in certain circumstances.
You should wear a face mask if you are sick and showing symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing.
The only reason the WHO states to wear a mask if you are healthy is if you are looking after someone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
The WHO website adds: “Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
“If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.”
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