Sage scientist says face masks should continue ‘forever’ – are face masks here to stay?

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A senior scientific advisor to the Government has said that face masks should continue well into the future, possibly forever. Professor Susan Michie has suggested the measures introduced to control the coronavirus crisis should be retained to help suppress other viruses and boost public health.

Professor Michie told Channel 5: “That is the behaviour of social distancing, of when you’re indoors, making sure there’s good ventilation or if it’s not, wearing face masks, of hands and surface hygiene.

“We will need to keep this going in the long term and that will be good not only for Covid, but also to reduce other diseases”.

Asked in follow-up questions about how long she thought the measures should continue, she said: “I think forever, to some extent.”

Later asked whether she thought the proposal was realistic, she cited several key changes made over the years that have improved public safety.

She said: “I think there’s lots of different behaviours we’ve changed in our lives.

“We now routinely wear seat belts, we didn’t use to.

“We now routinely pick up dog poo in the parks, we didn’t use to.

“When people see that there is a threat and there is something they can do to reduce that… [to] themselves, their loved ones and their communities, what we see now over this last year is people do that.”

She suggested that in future, people would likely adapt their behaviour in line with changing times, checking they had a face mask on them when they left the house in the same way people remember their wallet and keys when leaving home.

She said: “It’s not going to be a huge big deal, the kind of changes we’re talking about.”

Face masks have been mandatory in places like shops, transport and indoor public spaces since July of last year.

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Are face masks here to stay?

It’s highly unlikely there will ever be any law extended beyond the hopefully close-by end of the coronavirus crisis that will make it mandatory to continue wearing face masks in public places.

Legislation that face masks be worn on public transport are due to expire on June 20, but is likely be rolled over by ministers with retrospective parliamentary approval for the move sought later.

So there is currently no end in sight for the ending of face mask rules – they are expected to stay after June 21, the date earmarked for when England is expected to be free of most restrictions.

The Prime Minister is facing mounting pressure to delay the near-full unlocking of the country, however, as cases of the Delta variant rise quickly in several parts of England.

A two-week delay until July 5 has been under discussion by scientists and civil servants.

Boris Johnson expected to update parliament on the decision on Monday.

Mr Johnson said on June 9: “On Monday… we’ll have a look at where we are. I think what everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up, and in some cases hospitalisations are going up.

“What we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage. And so that’s what we’ll be looking at.”

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