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Doctors call for face masks to be mandatory outside and in offices

Marie Claire Dorking
·3-min read
The BMA have recommended face masks be worn outside when social distancing isn't possible. (Getty Images)
The BMA have recommended face masks be worn outside when social distancing isn't possible. (Getty Images)

Wearing face masks should be made compulsory while outside, when two-metre social distancing is not possible, doctors have recommended.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is calling for clearer additional measures to help curb the spread of coronavirus and believe the mandatory wearing of masks in busy areas outside is one such measure.

The BMA would also like to see the wearing of face masks made mandatory in all offices and working environments, unless you are working alone.

The BMA believes these additional measures, alongside other suggested recommendations, pose a very low risk to the economy and “could be crucial to providing people with the confidence they need to go out safely and boost the economy”.

Commenting on the recommendations, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA Chair of Council, said: “Simple effective rules and tighter restrictions are urgently needed to avoid communities suffering the paralysing impact of full local lockdowns and the impact that uncontrolled infections will have on our NHS.

Watch: Three easy ways to make DIY face masks using upcycled fabrics

Read more: What is 'mask eye' and how can you prevent it?

“We have drawn on a range of expertise from within the BMA to publish a set of recommendations which we feel, if introduced very quickly, could have a positive effect.

“We are having to swallow a very bitter pill of the infection continuing to spread at a perilous rate. Stronger measures brought in now could be a far sweeter pill in the long run for far more people.”

The call for wearing masks outside was backed by Professor Calum Semple, an expert in outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool and a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

“In reality, if you’re outside walking your dog on your own and you're many metres away from other people then wearing a mask is making no difference,” he told Sky News

“But if you’re in a city centre shopping precinct, or you’re queueing outside the shops then yes, you should be wearing a mask.”

Read more: The face mask hacks you need to know

The BMA would also like to see face coverings worn in all workplaces. (Getty Images)
The BMA would also like to see face coverings worn in all workplaces. (Getty Images)

If it did become compulsory to wear face masks outside in the UK, the country would be following Italy where wearing face masks in outdoor spaces across the country was recently made mandatory in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to the BBC.

Italians must also wear masks indoors everywhere except in private homes.

In September, the Prime Minister extended the rules on face coverings in England, making their use mandatory in all public spaces, whether you’re staff or a customer.

“We will extend the requirement to wear face coverings to include staff in retail, customers in taxis, and customers in indoor hospitality settings, except when seated at tables,” Johnson said.

Fines for failing to wear a face mask have risen to £200.

Read more: Why you should think twice before using a disposable face mask

The rules also mean anybody going to a pub or restaurant (before 10pm) must wear a face covering unless they are seated at a table to eat and drink.

Prior to this, the wearing of face coverings in England was not mandatory for workers in shops and supermarkets, although it was required of customers.

Watch: How to wear a face covering comfortably