Thank you for contacting me about wearing face coverings.
As you will know, on 19 July we moved to Step 4 of the Government's Roadmap to ease restrictions. The emphasis of the national response to coronavirus has therefore now shifted from rules and regulation towards expecting people to protect themselves, and others, through informed choice. The legal obligation to wear a face covering has ended. It is however expected and recommended that people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces, such as on public transport. In private settings, such as shops, it is up to private businesses to decide what rules, if any, they wish to have in place.
I am told that in September, the Government will undertake a review to assess the country’s preparedness for autumn and winter, which will consider whether to continue or strengthen public and business guidance as we approach the winter, including on face coverings.
I appreciate that this may be a worrying time for some. The virus is still with us; it has not gone away and the risk of a dangerous new variant that evades vaccines remains real. However, with our incredible vaccine rollout and the treatments available to those who are hospitalised with COVID-19, the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths has been substantially weakened.
As we move forward, we must all remember the sensible precautions we can take to keep us all safe. That means staying at home when asked to self-isolate, considering the guidance that has been set out, and getting both doses of the vaccine when offered.
However, Public Health England has announced that their Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Guidance remains in place. This means that the use of face masks or face coverings across the UK remains in health settings as an IPC measure. In addition to social distancing, hand hygiene for staff, patients and visitors is advised in both clinical and non-clinical areas to further reduce the risk of transmission. Public Health England has said that patients in all care areas should still be encouraged and supported to wear a face mask, providing it is not detrimental to their medical or care needs. Physical distancing of 2m remains in place as standard practice in all health and care settings, unless providing clinical or personal care and wearing appropriate PPE.
I understand that this guidance remains under constant review, based on available and emerging evidence. I will be following any updates closely.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.