The government is set to advise the wearing of face masks from Wednesday, amid confusion over Boris Johnson’s adjustments to the UK coronavirus lockdown measures.
Following the unveiling of the UK’s five-point COVID-19 Alert system on Sunday evening, foreign secretary Dominic Raab confirmed the use of face coverings will be recommended after weeks of debate over their effectiveness.
Speaking to ITV News, Raab said masks could provide an incremental mitigation of the risk of infecting other people - but admitted their use “don’t really have much of an impact” in protecting the wearer from catching the virus.
Recommending their use when in enclosed spaces with people we don’t live with, Raab said: “There’s a difference between masks which are used in a clinical setting for doctors, nurses, care home workers and face coverings - the kind of DIY cloth mask that someone might put together at home.
“In relation to face coverings, they don’t really have much of an impact in terms of protecting the person wearing it but they can provide an incremental mitigation of the risk of transmission to other people.
“So we will say from Wednesday, in areas where you worry that you may be enclosed spaces with other people or with other people not from your own home, that we will encourage people in those particular circumstances to wear a face covering.”
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During Monday morning’s media briefing, the first secretary was addressing questions raised by Johnson’s “road map” speech, which left some people confused over “a lack of clarity”.
From Wednesday, Brits will be allowed unlimited outdoor exercise, while people who cannot work from home are advised to go into their workplace, providing social distancing rules can be followed.
There has also been a lack of clarity over outdoor meetings of people from different households.
Mr Raab said people meet with both of their parents in a park, so long as they are a safe distance apart - but shortly after officials said he had got it wrong.
Official guidance now states people can only meet with one individual from a different household at one time, as long as they are 2m apart.
Meanwhile, Transport for London also said on Monday that passengers travelling on the capital’s transport networks will be required to wear face coverings.
The announcement covers passengers using the London Underground network, buses, black cabs and minicabs.
A statement released on Monday read: “Please travel outside of peak times and use a facial covering, carry a hand sanitiser and wash your hands before and after you travel.
“The latest Government advice is that, although face coverings are unlikely to prevent you from getting the virus, they could help prevent you from giving it to others.
“Face coverings are particularly important where two-metre social distancing is hard to maintain.”
During his Sunday speech, the prime minister warned people in England who do not observe social distancing would be subject to increased fines.
From Wednesday, individuals will be fined £100 - but the penalty will be lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days.
But the Home Office says fines will double for each repeat offender up to a maximum of £3,200.
The prime minister is expected to publish a 50-page plan to gradually ease the coronavirus lockdown this afternoon and will is set to make a statement to MPs in the House of Commons at 3.30pm.
Aside from England, other UK nations are sticking to the original "stay at home" message and have extended their lockdown measures, largely without any changes.