Ministers have been urged to take a tougher stance on the wearing of masks in pubs and restaurants amid growing concern that the O’Micron version would disrupt Christmas celebrations.
Face coverings became mandatory again in public transport and shops from Tuesday and teachers and students in Year 7 and over are now “strongly advised” to wear masks in communal areas outside classrooms in England.
The Department of Education Guidance also states that face coverings should be worn in communal places and corridors by university students and staff.
But some experts suggested the advice was not strong enough and questioned why people should wear face coverings on trains or in shops, but not in pubs.
Labor said people should wear face coverings at indoor hospitality venues.
And the British Medical Association (BMA) said that employees in pubs and restaurants should be required to wear face coverings when serving customers.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) recommended widespread use of masks in September.
In October, Sage said the Plan B measures would have the most impact if they were brought together. It also warned that the biggest measure to stop transmission was to restore work from home guidance.
It comes as officials said nine cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed across the UK.
Mr Brown told Sky News: “In September, the Sage committee recommended the widespread use of masks, which has come, and people will have to seek advice on hand-washing, social distancing, etc., if we can’t last Christmas.” To avoid some of the problems that come with you this Christmas.”
He said he believed the mask advice “will change over the next few days”.
Asked whether people should be asked to wear masks in pubs and restaurants, Sage member Professor Sir Mark Walport told Sky News: “If you are in a small, poorly ventilated enclosed space, it makes sense to wear a mask. comes in. Obviously it’s not possible to do this while you’re drinking and eating, but if you’re moving, absolutely.
“We know that infection occurs in closed spaces indoors and of course, as it gets colder, people are more likely to stay indoors and less likely to open their windows.
“So if you’re going to wear masks in stores, it makes sense to wear them in other places as well.”
And Dr Chand Nagpaul, chair of council at the BMA, told Good Morning Britain: “What we believe is that masks should be worn in all settings that are enclosed and indoors.
“Now clearly, this does not apply to people who are eating out, but it should apply to employees, for example, in restaurants and bars so that when you are close to a customer, when you are close to a customer, and you’re probably speaking out loud, you reduce your chances of infecting others.
“It’s not just about the public, it’s also about employees and employers, because if they have employees getting infected, employees who are sick and self-isolating, it will affect the economy as well.”
Professor Greg Towers, from the Department of Infection and Immunity at University College London, said people needed to follow “easy” measures to avoid a possible future lockdown.
He told Times Radio: “If we don’t wear masks, and if we ignore the rules of social distancing, and if we just pretend it’s all over, what’s going to happen is that we’re going to have an infection.” There’s going to be another big wave, and we’ll be in lockdown again, so if we don’t want a lockdown we’ll have to try to stop it from spreading through easy ways like wearing masks and social distancing.”
Deputy Labor leader Angela Renner said people should wear face coverings at indoor hospitality venues, adding that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “undermined” the importance of wearing one by being unmasked in public on several occasions.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said: “We think we should encourage people to wear masks when we are all meeting indoors, as much as possible.
“So we would recommend that people wear masks when they are out and about, especially when they are moving around places.
“The prime minister has unfortunately undermined those messages in recent weeks, but wearing a mask can be a very protective way of supporting people in preventing the virus from spreading as quickly.”
On wearing masks in pubs, she told Sky News: “I think people … especially if you’re walking around in pubs, people should wear their masks in hospitality settings.
“If you are in an indoor setting, there is no difference between sitting in a pub, sitting in a pub, or sitting on a train, or sitting in a hospital. Necessary measures should be taken for the safety of the people.”
Health Minister Edward Arger said the decision not to make wearing masks mandatory in pubs was up to the “nature of the venue”.
Mr Argar told BBC Breakfast: “It is partly in the nature of pubs and restaurants and hospitality venues where people are eating, drinking … (they) can go to a bar to order a drink , but often go back to have drinks at their table where they’ll be seated. It’s about creating a proportional balance.”
Experts also stressed the importance of ventilation, especially in the cold winter months where people were getting more indoors.
Prof Jim Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, said: “Beyond vaccination, ventilation is an effective measure as is universal masking.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /