Face masks must be worn to stop Covid spread or risk second wave that could 'devastate' NHS, top docs warn

FACE masks must be worn to stop the spread of Covid-19 or risk a second wave that could “devastate” the NHS, top docs have warned.

Top doctors have slammed the “illogical” government messaging around face coverings.

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At present the government has made it mandatory to wear a mask or covering on public transport.

This is while from July 24 customers using supermarkets and other retailers will also have to wear face coverings.

However shop staff are unable to enforce this and only police are able to question people who do not follow the rules.

Some stores are set to offer customers masks on entry, but customers can refuse to wear them.

Today the British Medical Association (BMA) said that a second peak of Covid-19, combined with the usual strain of the winter flu could be “devastating for the NHS”, adding that masks need to be made mandatory in other settings where social distancing is not possible.

 

BMA council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "Everyone has their role to play, but there needs to be clear, concise public messaging.

"To introduce measures for shops, but not other situations where physical distancing is not possible – including some workplaces – is illogical and adds to confusion and the risk of the virus spreading."

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week claimed that masks and coverings would have to be worn in takeaway sandwich shops such as Pret A Manger.

Downing Street later contradicted Mr Hancock, claiming the coverings would not have to be worn.

Then business secretary Alok Sharma said the government "encouraged" the use of masks in places like Pret, but that it wasn't mandatory.

Other experts warned that the NHS would be “overwhelmed” by a second wave.

It isn't over. We still have Covid patients in intensive care

Dr Alison Pittard, head of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine said if the public do not respect the use of masks then we could get back to where we were at the beginning of the year.

She added: "People might think Covid is over with, why do I have to wear a face mask.

"But it isn't over. We still have Covid patients in intensive care.”

Their comments come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he didn’t think we would get back to the same position as we were at the start of the year.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph yesterday he said authorities were getting better at identifying and isolating local outbreaks, although it was important that the power to order national action was held in reserve.

"I can't abandon that tool any more than I would abandon a nuclear deterrent. But it is like a nuclear deterrent, I certainly don't want to use it. And nor do I think we will be in that position again”.

Despite Mr Johnson’s certainty that the UK is out of the woods, Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser to the government, last week warned national measures might be needed as winter approaches.

The government has now given local councils autonomy when it comes to local lockdowns.

It comes after Leicester was the first place in the UK to be placed on localised lockdown earlier this month

While some restrictions have been lifted and the lockdown area decreased other local authorities have also had to introduce measures to keep residents safe.

Rochdale brought in immediate new measures to avoid a reintroduction of lockdown, as the town's director of public health warned the "fight against coronavirus is not over".

The borough followed Blackburn with Darwen and Pendle, in Lancashire, in urging residents to follow extra precautions such as wearing face coverings in shops and limiting home visitors to two people.

While Leicester continues to have the highest rate of cases in the country, local officials have warned the national tracing system is only reaching half of people who have been in contact with coronavirus patients.

Dominic Harrison, the director of public health at Blackburn with Darwin Council said this was the case in his region.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday, Prof Harrison said that Blackburn with Darwen faced a "rising tide" of infections.

A cluster of coronavirus infections has been confirmed at an NHS Test and Trace call centre in North Lanarkshire.

The news comes as Scotland recorded 23 new confirmed cases of coronavirus – the highest increase in almost a month.

Three of these were in the Lanarkshire health board area.

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