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‘They do not work’: COVID expert’s warning over face shields as pubs and salons reopen

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
Hair stylist Nas Ganev wearing a face shield – in line with government advice because a mask is also being warn – during a haircut in south London on Monday. A coronavirus expert has warned shields do not work without a mask. (PA)
Hairstylist Nas Ganev wearing a face shield with a mask in line with government advice during a haircut in south London on Monday. A coronavirus expert has warned that shields do not work without a mask. (PA)

A coronavirus expert has warned face shields do not work on their own, as pubs, shops and hairdressers reopened in England.

Prof Christina Pagel, a member of the Independent Sage group, which scrutinises COVID-19 policy, said she is a “bit worried by how many staff wear a face shield instead of a mask – shields do not work".

On Monday, the latest easing of the lockdown saw thousands of retail units, gyms, outdoor attractions and community centres – as well as pubs and restaurants for outdoor service – reopen across the country.

Many staff and customers will be using face shields as part of this, with government advice stating they should only be worn if people are also wearing a mask.

It says: “A face visor or shield may be worn in addition to a face covering but not instead of one.

“This is because face visors or shields do not adequately cover the nose and mouth, and do not filter airborne particles.”

Prof Pagel called for this information to be “much more widely advertised” by the government.

Advice on face shields is currently under the second sub-heading in its online guidance about wearing face coverings, but Prof Pagel said the government needs to be "much stronger" now the economy is reopening.

She told Yahoo News UK: "Face shields on their own aren’t good enough and I don’t think that’s ever been made public through a campaign, because loads of shop staff are still wearing just face shields. 

"I’ve seen hairdressers and beauticians wearing just face shields, and they’re often standing over people’s heads funnelling the air down to your face.

LONDON, UK - JULY 7: Hairdresser wears a face shield as they apply a treatment to their clients hair at Hershesons hair salon in London on July 7, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Hairdressing Salons reopen today having been closed for over three months in the UK due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Bars and restaurants will also open all with special measures in place to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19. (Photo by Ming Yeung/Getty Images)
A hairdresser wearing a face shield and mask, as per government guidance. (Ming Yeung/Getty Images)

"I think the government should be much stronger on the public health messaging."

She said Downing Street should write to businesses to remind them of the guidance, as well as run TV adverts and billboard campaigns to help "empower" customers to ask staff to wear a mask rather than a face shield on its own.

Face mask review

Monday's easing of the lockdown is the second of four stages, with the ultimate aim of lifting all restrictions on social contact on 21 June at the earliest.

However, it is still not known how long face masks will continue to be required, with the government having commissioned a review looking into the issue.

Watch: Hundreds queue for Primark as lockdown restrictions lift

One of the UK's leading COVID scientists has previously suggested that while masks are unlikely to remain a legal requirement, this measure could remain in place more out of people’s habits.

Prof Neil Ferguson, whose modelling convinced Boris Johnson to impose the first lockdown in March last year, told BBC Breakfast last month: “People have got used to being very cautious around each other, used to wearing masks.

“I think it’s quite possible that this pandemic, which has been an immensely traumatic event for this country and for the world, will cause significant long-term cultural changes, behavioural changes in the population.”

Read more:

'I’ve got corona': COVID-infected criminal spat at police officers after luring them to car park

Midnight beer gardens and beauty treatments as people brave snow for England’s relaxed COVID lockdown

He said it is routine in south-east Asia for people to wear masks if they have a cold or any sort of respiratory disease.

Last year, Dr Pierre Chan, a leading medical doctor and lawmaker in Hong Kong, told Yahoo News UK of face mask use there: “Because we had a very painful experience with Sars in 2003, most of our citizens are very alert about these things. Whenever there is something wrong, we prepare ourselves.”

Watch: How England is leaving lockdown