Government acted too slow on PPE - now it’s delaying the inevitable over face masks

PUBLISHED: 13:51 01 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:51 01 May 2020

A passer-by wears a face mask on Westminster Bridge in London as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA.

A passer-by wears a face mask on Westminster Bridge in London as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

The government is once again dragging its feet over the coronavirus - this time over face masks.

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I just don’t get it. Why on earth is the government not advising us all to wear face-coverings? OK, not the masks needed by hospitals and front-line workers. But scarves or home-made masks.

Imagine that a face-covering gave 100% protection of me from you and you from me. There would be no need for any other measure to beat Covid-19.

Yes, they say, but ordinary masks don’t give 100% protection. Yet this line of argument completely contradicts their case for the forms of protection which they say work.

They told us to wash our hands. Does that give 100% protection? No-one at all believes that one.


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They told us to stay at home. Does that work at 100%? Well, no it doesn’t. YouGov found that 25% of people admit that they ignore advice to avoid crowds. So that’s 16 million people.

Why does the government want 100% efficiency for one method of prevention of infection but is happy with much less efficiency for the only other two methods that we have right now?

It makes no sense. Especially when, at the end of the day, the UK will have to insist on face coverings for all.

We need face masks to start to get out of lockdown with least risk. We will need masks to reduce the risks of new infections arising during the slow process of contact tracing. We will need masks for all inbound arrivals to the UK. We will need masks until we all get vaccinated or until we all have guaranteed access to some life-saving cure.

Martin Yuille MA PhD

Honorary reader, Centre for Epidemiology, University of Manchester

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The German states have made the covering of your mouth and nose on public transport and when shopping compulsory. This is a country where the death count, including deaths outside hospital, is still under 6,000 from a larger population.

We have suffered 20,000 deaths in hospital alone, so our equivalent figure is probably closer to 25,000.

Now, of course we know that expertise in the UK is far superior to expertise elsewhere, and that we always know best. But wouldn’t a bit of humility come in handy at this point? I’d hate to wear a mask or scarf anywhere, but I’d do it to keep others and myself safer.

Phil Green

Why does this government always seem to be behind the proverbial curve?

Social distancing was introduced at the same time in Austria and the Czech Republic, but in addition the latter required its people to wear face coverings. Austria’s coronavirus daily case count then increased much more than the Czech Republic’s.

When Austria changed its mind 17 days later and made face coverings compulsory too, its daily case count dropped, equalling that of the Czech Republic after just five more days.

If more evidence is needed of the importance of face masks, look no further than my hospital’s policy in this respect. Only yesterday, I had an appointment for a routine procedure, and guess what I was asked to take out of a box by the nurse before it started? The same basic face mask as hers.

Practical as ever, NHS staff knew that, if I was one of those many asymptomatic Covid-19 sufferers but wore one, the chances of me infecting any patient or nurse would be greatly reduced.

Suzanne Martin

• Have your say by emailing letters@theneweuropean.co.uk

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