Call to wear face masks 'even outdoors' - North East health chief's concerns over infection spreading in busy areas

Face coverings should be worn even when outside to halt the spread of coronavirus, a North East health chief has suggested.

Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 4:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 6:49 pm

Under the current rules for England, masks are supposed to be used in most public indoor settings, with rule breakers facing the prospect of a £200 fine if they don’t.

But according to one of the region’s top NHS bosses, it may also be advisable to cover up when outside as well, if you are in a busy area.

“Public support is really important and we should all encourage the public to wear masks indoors,” said Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer at County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

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Some health chiefs have suggested wearing masks outdoors, particularly in crowded streets, to help prevent the spread of infection.

“And to be honest, in a crowded street I think you would be well advised to continue wearing your mask, even outdoors.

“It does seem to reduce the spread and it certainly protects others who you are in reasonably close contact with, either in a shop or out on a crowded street.”

Dr Findlay was speaking at a meeting of the CCG’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee, held by videolink and broadcast via Facebook.

Rules on face coverings for England currently say they should be worn when inside public spaces, such as shops, banks and restaurants.

However they can be removed if necessary, to prove your identity, eat, receive treatment or take medication.

There are however some exceptions, such as railway station platforms, where masks should still be worn, according to the government’s coronavirus regulations.

Dr Findlay added the diligence already shown by County Durham families in sticking to rules on two-metre social distancing and regular handwashing had already helped avoid a ‘huge rise in COVID deaths.

His call for more face coverings echoed a similar one by the British Medical Association (BMA), demanding tougher measures.

This included mandatory masks in ‘all outdoor settings where two metre distancing isn’t possible’ and free face coverings for the over 60s and other vulnerable groups.

The BMA Chair of Council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “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.”

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