Matt Hancock says government cannot promise to provide free face masks to public

Shop staff and transport workers must be given masks, say doctors

‘Common sense tells you that a barrier between people must offer a level of protection,’ says BMA chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul

Peter Stubley
Sunday 26 April 2020 01:11

Shop workers and other essential staff should be provided with face masks to control the spread of coronavirus, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

The doctors’ union is also calling on the government to ask all members of the public to cover their mouths and noses while outside their homes.

“Common sense tells you that a barrier between people must offer a level of protection, however small,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chairman.

“The government must pursue all avenues of reducing the spread of infection.

“This includes asking the public to wear face coverings to cover mouths and noses when people leave home for essential reasons.”

Dr Nagpaul told The Daily Telegraph the BMA believes masks or face coverings should be provided to all key workers outside the NHS – including transport workers, shopkeepers, carers and supermarket staff.

Ministers are still considering recommendations made by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) following a review of current advice on the wearing of masks.

However, hospital bosses have warned that NHS supplies of face masks could be put at risk if it becomes compulsory for the public to wear them as part of measures to exit the lockdown.

The World Health Organisation highlighted the same issue earlier this month when it said it did not support widespread use of masks.


And earlier this week health secretary Matt Hancock said the government cannot promise “free masks” for the public if the current guidance is changed.

He said that people may have to wear cloth masks and scarves until “sufficient supplies of PPE are provided” to the front line.

London major Sadiq Khan has called for masks to be made compulsory on public transport.

Additional reporting by agencies

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