WHO’s Covid chief says MPs should wear masks in Commons

Health chief’s warning comes as minister says Tory MPs are sending message about ‘using your own initiative’

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 26 October 2021 09:29
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Tories won’t wear masks in Commons because they ‘know each other’, Rees-Mogg says

MPs from all parties have been urged to wear masks during chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget speech by the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Covid expert.

Dr David Nabarro, the WHO’s special envoy for Covid-19, said that “everybody” should be wearing masks in close confinement with other people, “including our leaders”.

Conservative MPs have come in for heavy criticism over the refusal to wear masks in the chamber, having largely ditched them in recent months.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg last week insisted that Tories do not need to wear masks in parliament because with they have “a more convivial, fraternal spirit” than other parties.

And business minister Paul Scully said Tory MPs were sending a message that it was good to “make decisions for yourself”. He told Sky News on Tuesday: “It’s message you can use your own initiative and make your own decisions.”

But the WHO’s Covid chief made clear that face coverings remained “one of the best ways” to restrict the spread of the virus as well as protecting yourself and others.

Asked whether MPs should wear masks in the Commons, Dr Nabarro told Sky News: “This virus, it is absolutely unstoppable, it gets everywhere, and so we have to do everything we possibly can to stop it.

He added: “If it works, why on earth don’t people use it? It’s not a party political issue - this virus doesn’t vote. And indeed, there’s no difference in how you deal with the virus when you vote for this party or that party.

“So everybody, wear masks when you are in close confinement, it’s the right, sensible, proper thing to do, and everybody should be doing it – including our leaders.”

Health secretary Sajid Javid has already committed to wearing a mask in the Commons when it is packed on Budget day, but he said wearing a mask in the crowded chamber is still a “personal decision” for ministers and backbenchers.

Faced with accusations of hypocrisy after urging the public to wear masks in crowded spaces, Mr Javid conceded: “I think that’s a very fair point.”

The Conservatives’ vice chairman Andrew Bowie also said MPs had “a responsibility to set the tone and set an example”, saying that he was “encouraged” to see more of his colleagues wearing face coverings in the Commons.

Labour’s shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire has said MPs should wear face coverings in the chamber to set the “best example to the public”.

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