With Coronavirus restrictions being lifted in England this week, the wearing of face masks becomes a personal responsibility rather than a lawful requirement.
However, passengers on London’s transport network have been told they must continue wearing masks in order to travel and British Airways, EasyJet, Virgin, and Ryanair, have also said masks will still be required for air travel. Meanwhile, Scotland has announced that face coverings will be required for the time being, where the rules will apply in shops and public transport – as well as pubs and restaurants when not seated.
So why should you continue to wear a face mask voluntarily? At a basic level, you could be refused service, entry or the right to travel if a firm enforces a requirement to wear a face-covering but evidence suggests that transmission predominantly happens indoors where people are close together and especially in poorly ventilated indoor settings.
Once the one-metre rule is scrapped, shops will be more crowded, making them a higher-risk setting for transmission. Face coverings worn over the nose and mouth reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets from coughs, sneezes, and speaking and can also help reduce virus spread from contagious people with no symptoms so if everyone wears one, the risks drop for all. Wearing a mask along with social distancing and regular hand-washing remain our best long term defence against Covid-19.
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance have both said they will continue to wear face coverings indoors where people are close together, if asked to by any “competent authority” or if someone else was uncomfortable, as a “common courtesy”. If the experts think it’s the right thing to do, shouldn’t the rest of us give it due consideration too?
And finally, if you are going to wear a face-covering for effective protection, make sure your mask:
- has a nose wire
- has at least two or three layers of material
- fits snugly over your mouth, nose, and chin
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