Leading experts have criticised the UK government’s stance on face coverings, describing it as inconsistent and “jolly confusing”.
Dr Venki Ramakrishnan, the president of the Royal Society who also sits on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on coronavirus, said the evidence on face coverings had “shifted” and was now “quite strongly in favour” of using face coverings in enclosed spaces where people are likely to come into contact with strangers.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I think that the government should be very clear. It’s not consistent to make it mandatory in public transport and not make it mandatory in other enclosed and busy public spaces because the behaviour of the virus is the same in all of these spaces.”
He added: “Scotland made it mandatory and it’s not been a problem in Scotland. People have, since last week, been going about their business, going shopping, it gives people confidence.
Linda Bauld, a professor in public health at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the UK government needed to be “much clearer” and make the wearing of face coverings mandatory in shops.
“From a behavioural science perspective, it is jolly confusing the messaging we’ve seen over the last few days,” said Bauld, referring to the differing stances of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and, this morning, Robert Buckland.
Bauld said the evidence had “moved on” and that 120 countries now required or strongly recommended their citizens wear face coverings, compared with around 70 when the pandemic was first declared by the World Health Organization on 11 March.
Bauld said that requiring people to wear a face covering in shops, as is the case in Scotland from today, would make a difference “because it basically says to people: this is expected”.
The professor said it was “much better to be clear and consistent” about why face coverings were required and that political leaders should lead by example, including by wearing face coverings in public.