Everyone should have a face covering to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and they should not leave home without having one in their possession according to the President of the Royal Society.
Venki Ramakrishnan’s call comes as a new review of evidence reinforces the benefits of face coverings and even suggests they may protect the wearer as well as those around them. However, the British public remain much less likely to wear face coverings in public compared to other countries, including the United States.
Venki Ramakrishnan said:
“The virus has not been eliminated, so as we lift lockdown and people increasingly interact with each other we need to use every tool we have to reduce the risk of a second wave of infection. There are no silver bullets but alongside hand washing and physical distancing, we also need everyone to start wearing face coverings, particularly indoors in enclosed public spaces where physical distancing is often not possible.
“The UK is way behind many countries in terms of wearing masks and clear policies and guidelines about mask wearing for the public. The public have taken to handwashing and distancing but remain sceptical about face coverings. You only need to go on public transport, where they are supposed to be mandatory, to see how many people are ignoring this new rule based on the growing body of evidence that wearing a mask will help protect others – and might even protect you.
“People may rightly ask why you have to wear a mask on a train but not in a shop. If guidance is inconsistent people will follow their own preferences.
“There are multiple factors as to why the public have not taken to face coverings. The message has not been clear enough so perhaps people do not really understand the benefits or are not convinced of them. Whatever the reasons, we need to overcome our reservations and wear face coverings whenever we are around others in public.
“It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts. Today both of those would be considered antisocial, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way. If all of us wear one, we protect each other and thereby ourselves, reducing transmission. We lower the chances of future surges and lockdowns which are economically and psychologically disruptive, and we increase the chance of eliminating the virus. Not doing so increases the risk for everyone, from NHS workers to your grandmother.
“Wearing a mask did not bother our Italian, French or Spanish neighbours, none of whom were used to wearing one before the pandemic yet now do so routinely. So just treat it as another item of clothing that is part of the new normal and wear it whenever you cannot socially distance safely. It the right thing to do, and a small price to pay, to help keep infections down and the economy open in the pandemic.”
The Royal Society is a Fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists and is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence and it publishes many insightful articles on matters of science.
Read the full article, including analysis of recent scientific studies on mask wearing on the Royal Society website.