Category Archives: Coronavirus News

When to wear a face covering – government advice

Here’s the latest advice (1 August 2020) from the Government on where and when to wear a face covering in England, including the expansion of places where they need to be worn from 8 August onwards.

In England, you must wear a face covering by law in the following settings:

  • public transport
  • indoor transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • shops and supermarkets (places which are open to the public and that wholly or mainly offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • indoor shopping centres
  • banks, building societies, and post offices (including credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses)

You are expected to wear a face covering immediately before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave.

For members of the public, from 8 August the places where you will have to wear a face covering will be expanded to include:

  • funeral directors
  • premises providing professional, legal or financial services
  • cinemas
  • theatres
  • bingo halls
  • concert halls
  • museums, galleries, aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms, or other indoor tourist, heritage or cultural sites.
  • nail, beauty, hair salons and barbers – other than where necessary to remove for treatments
  • massage parlours
  • public areas in hotels and hostels
  • place of worship
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • community centres
  • social clubs
  • tattoo and piercing parlours
  • indoor entertainment venues (amusement arcades, funfairs, adventure activities e.g. laser quest, go-karting, escape rooms, heritage sites etc)
  • storage and distribution facilities
  • veterinary services.
  • auction houses

Face coverings should be worn in indoor places not listed above where possible, especially if it is a place where you may come in to contact with people you do not usually meet.

The government recommends face coverings are worn in these settings now but this will not be mandatory until 8 August.

Face coverings are also needed in NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries. They are advised to be worn in care homes. Individual settings may have their own policies and require you to take other measures.

Where this law does not apply

Face coverings are not required in restaurants with table service, bars, and pubs.

For more info and advice on face coverings, see our face coverings and masks section.

How to wear a face covering – government advice

This is the Government’s advice on how to protect yourself by properly using face coverings.

A face covering should:

  • cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably
  • fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face
  • be secured to the head with ties or ear loops
  • be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton
  • ideally include at least two layers of fabric (the World Health Organisation recommends three depending on the fabric used)
  • unless disposable, it should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged

When wearing a face covering you should:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on
  • avoid wearing on your neck or forehead
  • avoid touching the part of the face covering in contact with your mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus
  • change the face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • avoid taking it off and putting it back on a lot in quick succession (for example, when leaving and entering shops on a high street)

When removing a face covering:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before removing
  • only handle the straps, ties or clips
  • do not give it to someone else to use
  • if single-use, dispose of it carefully in a residual waste bin and do not recycle
  • if reusable, wash it in line with manufacturer’s instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser once removed

For more info and advice on face coverings, see our face coverings and masks section.

Calderdale Council: updated coronavirus advice

Calderdale council have produced some specific advice following the re-introduction of some lockdown restrictions in the area on 30 July. We have reproduced the introduction below – you can read the full advice, including a really helpful FAQ section, on their website.

On 31 July the Government introduced a range of measures in response to increasing numbers of people with coronavirus in parts of Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire. We hope the restrictions will help control the spread of the virus and protect residents of Calderdale and surrounding affected areas.

The new restrictions are not a return to lockdown. We can still do many of the things we have been doing but it is important to limit the spread of the virus by limiting contact between households. If you live in Calderdale you now should not:

  • Meet with people you don’t live with in a private house or garden (unless they are part of your support bubble)
  • Visit someone else’s house or garden even if they live outside affected areas
  • Socialise with people you don’t live with in indoor public spaces (pubs, restaurants, cafes, places of worship, shops, community centres).

Further information is available on the Council’s website

Pause in shielding in Calderdale to continue as planned

Despite the reintroduction of some lockdown measures introduced on 31 July for people in Calderdale, the pause in restrictions on people who are shielding continues as scheduled from 1 August.

This means those who have been shielding over the course of the pandemic will no longer be advised to do so, and can begin to go back to work and school as long as the sites are COVID-secure.

People will also be able to go outside as much as they like, and visit supermarkets, pubs and shops, with social distancing guidelines still strongly advised.

The latest scientific evidence shows that the average incidence across the country remains lower now than the point when the decision was made to proceed with the pausing of shielding nationally. This has allowed for the relaxation of the guidance.

This means that from 1 August:
• you can go to work, if you cannot work from home, as long as the business is COVID-safe;
• children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can return to their education settings if they are eligible and in line with their peers. Where possible children should practise frequent hand washing and social distancing;
• you can go outside to buy food, to places of worship and for exercise but you should maintain strict social distancing; and
• you should remain cautious as you are still at risk of severe illness if you catch Coronavirus, so the advice is to stay at home where possible and, if you do go out, follow strict social distancing.

Other areas of the country

The easing of restrictions will not apply for those currently shielding in:

  • Blackburn with Darwen
  • Blaby and Charnwood
  • Luton
  • Leicester City
  • Wigston
  • Oadby

The government has written out to those living in these areas who are affected setting out the advice that applies locally.

For those living in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire, the government and relevant local authorities are acting together in a preventative approach to control the spread of the virus and to stop transmission from increasing further. At this stage our advice is that those living in these areas no longer need to shield from 1 August in line with national guidance (with the exception of Blackburn with Darwen).

Background information

The government will write out to those affected when advice is changed and are working closely with local authorities to ensure that local guidance is available on council websites.

New lockdown restrictions for Calderdale

Calderdale is one of a number of areas in the North of England which have been given additional lockdown restrictions following an increase in the spread of coronavirus. These restrictions come into force on Friday 31 July 2020.

Social contact

The Government have issued the following guidelines if you live in one of the affected areas. In order to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, you should not:

  • meet people you do not live with inside a private home or garden, except where you have formed a support bubble (or for other limited exemptions to be specified in law).
  • visit someone else’s home or garden even if they live outside of the affected areas.
  • socialise with people you do not live with in other indoor public venues – such as pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues, or visitor attractions. You may attend these venues with people you live with (or are in a support bubble with), but should avoid interaction with others. If you run such a business, you should take steps to ensure people do not interact with people they do not live with, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance.

The government will pass new laws to enforce the changes to meeting people in private homes and gardens. The police will be able to take action against those that break these rules, including asking people to disperse and issuing fixed penalty notices (starting at £100 – halving to £50 if paid in the first 14 days – and doubling for subsequent offences).

Changes in restrictions

Does my household include close family members?

Your household – as defined in law – is only the people you live with. If you have formed a support bubble (which must include a single adult household i.e. people who live alone or single parents with dependent children aged under 18) these can be treated as if they are members of your household.

What will be illegal?

It will be illegal for people who do not live together to meet in a private home or garden, except for limited exceptions to be set out in law. You should not host or visit people you do not live with, unless they are in your support bubble. If you live in the affected areas, you should not visit someone’s home or garden regardless of whether this is in or outside of the restricted area.

Can I still meet indoors with people in my support bubble?

Yes. Where people from single adult households (people who live alone or single parents with dependent children aged under 18) have formed a support bubble with another household, they can continue to visit each other, stay overnight, and visit other public places as if they were one household.

Can I still meet people outdoors?

In line with the national guidance, you can continue to meet in public outdoor spaces in groups of no more than six people, unless the group includes only people from two households. You cannot meet people you do not live within a private garden. At all times, you should socially distance from people you do not live with – unless they are in your support bubble.

I live in this area. Can I still meet with my family and friends to celebrate Eid?

Due to higher rates of infection, if you live in this area you should not host or visit friends and family in each other’s homes or gardens. It will shortly be illegal to do so, unless specific exemptions apply. You also should not meet friends and family in other venues – including restaurants or cafes.

Up to two households, or six people from any number of households may meet outdoors (excluding people’s gardens) where there is a lower risk of infection. If you do so, you should still socially distance from those you do not live with, and avoid physical contact.

You may attend a mosque or other place or worship, where Covid-19 Secure guidance applies, but you must socially distance from people outside of your household. This means maintaining a distance of 2 metres, or 1 metre with mitigations (such as wearing face coverings). We recommend at this time that, if possible, prayer/religious services take place outdoors.

Can I still go to work in this area?

Yes. People living inside and outside of this area can continue to travel in and out for work. Workplaces must implement Covid-19 Secure guidance.

I live in this area. Can I still go to cafes, restaurants, the gym and other public places?

Yes. But you should only go with members of your own household – even if you are going outside of the restricted area.

I live in the area. Can people from outside of the lockdown area visit me at my house?

No. This will be illegal.

Do I still have to shield if I live in this area?

Clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer have to follow the shielding guidance from the 1 August, unless they live in Blackburn with Darwen in the North West and other local affected areas across England where shielding continues.

Can I visit a care home?

You should not visit friends or family in care homes, other than in exceptional circumstances. Care homes should restrict visits to these circumstances.

Can I still have my wedding if it’s in the lockdown area?

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies in these areas can still go ahead. No more than 30 people should attend a marriage or civil partnership, where this can be safely accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 secure venue. Further guidance can be found here.

Large wedding receptions or parties should not currently be taking place and any celebration after the ceremony should follow the broader social distancing guidance of involving no more than two households in any location or, if outdoors, up to six people from different households.

Can I travel outside of the lockdown area to attend a wedding ceremony?


Can I travel into the lockdown area to attend a wedding ceremony?

Yes. Weddings should be limited to no more than 30 people and subject to COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

People living outside the lockdown areas may travel into the areas to attend a wedding, but should not go into a private home or garden.

Can I still visit a place of worship in the lockdown area?

Yes, but you must socially distance from people outside of your household. This means maintaining a distance of 2 metres, or 1 metre with mitigations (e.g. face coverings). We recommend at this time that if possible prayer/religious services take place outdoors.

Can funerals still take place in the lockdown areas?

Yes. Funerals should be limited to no more than 30 people and subject to COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

People living outside the lockdown areas may travel into the areas to attend a funeral.

Can I holiday in the lockdown area, or visit shops, leisure facilities, or cafes in it?

Yes. However, you must avoid socialising with people indoors when doing so.

Can I travel in a car with someone I do not live with?

You should try not to share a vehicle with those outside your household or social bubble. If you need to, try to:

  • share the transport with the same people each time
  • keep to small groups of people at any one time
  • open windows for ventilation
  • travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow face away from each other
  • consider seating arrangements to maximise distance between people in the vehicle
  • clean your car between journeys using standard cleaning products – make sure you clean door handles and other areas that people may touch
  • ask the driver and passengers to wear a face covering

The Department for Transport has provided specific guidance on using private vehicles. Please see their guidance on private cars and other vehicles for more information on car sharing and traveling with people outside your household group.

Published 31 July 2020

Families and friends to be reunited with loved ones in care homes as visits restart

The Department of Health & Social Care has announced that Care home residents are set to be be reunited with friends and family as visits begin again following the publication of new guidance on 22 July.

The isolating effects of lockdown have been difficult for residents and families, but the rate of community transmission has fallen and care homes can now arrange visits based on new guidance to limit further outbreaks, and protect staff and residents.

These arrangements will be based on the advice set out in new guidance to limit any further outbreaks and protect staff and residents.

Local directors of public health will lead assessments on visiting within their local authority. They will be expected to take a measured, risk-assessed approach, considering the situation in specific care homes as well as the community context, including any local outbreaks.

Care home providers should encourage all visitors to wear a face covering and to wash their hands thoroughly before and after putting it on and taking it off.

PPE may also be required, depending on the need of their visit, including gloves and aprons. Providers should also consider whether visits could take place in a communal garden or outdoor area, which can be accessed without anyone going through a shared building.

It is expected all care homes will still only relax visiting arrangements for specific individual needs and continue to take the health protection of the whole care home as their main objective, but those wishing to visit should speak to the care homes before a planned visit.

Care homes should support NHS Test and Trace by keeping a temporary record, including address and phone number, of current and previous residents, staff and visitors as well as keeping track of visitor numbers and staff. It is recommended they have an arrangement to enable bookings or appointments for visitors – ad hoc visits should not be permitted.

Lisa Lenton, Chair, Care Providers Alliance said:

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll in many ways. The effect of not being able to see friends and family has been very difficult and very upsetting for many – both for the people who access care and support, and for their loved ones who have been isolated.

The Care Provider Alliance welcomes this overdue guidance – the CPA has been calling for government guidance for many weeks and released its own visitors protocol last month in its absence. People need people and this is such an important step for the wellbeing of individuals and their relatives.

Guide to choosing a care home.

More on face coverings.

Calderdale on coronavirus “Watch List” & what the council is doing in response

Debs Harkins, Director of Public Health at Calderdale Council put out the following information on Thursday 23 July, 2020:

This evening the government has announced that Calderdale will be on the national coronavirus watch list.

The criteria for being on the list is based on a number of indicators:

  • The seven day rate per 100,000, which peaked at 25 on 15th July although it appears to be lower in the most recent data
  • The increase in the seven day rate over the previous two weeks (Calderdale had the fourth largest increase in England)
  • The exceedance rate, which shows that the number of cases in Calderdale residents is higher than expected based on our previous trends
  • The testing rate, which has increased by more than 60% since the beginning of July
  • The proportion of tests that are positive, despite testing increasing. This is over 3% compared to a national average of 1%

There are three levels on this national watch list:

  1. Intervention, which only Leicester and parts of Leicestershire are included on,
  2. Enhanced Support, and
  3. Area of Concern, which Calderdale, Bradford, Kirklees and Wakefield are on.

Although Calderdale will be under the media spotlight because of this, I want to reassure you that partners in the borough have robust plans in place and are working hard together to tackle the virus. Many of you are supporting our efforts and if it wasn’t for all your hard work, we wouldn’t be able to tell the government such a compelling story about the work we are doing.

Working together with communities and residents is at the heart of our approach and, as the virus is still with us in Calderdale, we can all help by:

  • continuing to keep at least two metres away from people outside our households wherever possible
  • washing our hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds
  • avoiding touching our face unless our hands are clean and following the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ guidance to help keep ourselves and others safe
  • staying at home and booking a test as soon as possible if we have COVID-19 symptoms, within five days of the symptoms starting
  • if contacted by the Test and Trace service and told we have been in contact with a person who has tested positive, following their advice and self-isolating for 14 days
  • wearing a face covering on public transport, in taxis, when visiting a hospital, in shops and supermarkets and whenever we are indoors with people who are not part of our household or bubble
  • limiting contact with people outside our household or bubble as much as possible and especially avoiding crowded places and large gatherings

Further information and some FAQs about what being on the national watch list means are available on the Council website. Further updates will be published on the Council website.

Why are the rates in Calderdale higher than other areas?

There are a number of reasons why the number of positive cases in Calderdale is high at the moment.

When we look at information from the NHS Test and Trace programme, we can see that each person who tests positive for COVID-19 in Calderdale has, on average, a higher number of ‘contacts’ than people living in other areas. Contacts are people that they may have passed the virus on to. Some of this is because the people who test positive for COVID-19 live in larger households, or it could be because they have not been social distancing.

COVID-19 rates are currently higher than average in most of our neighbouring areas. We know that Calderdale’s economy is closely aligned with neighbouring areas, meaning that people travel to other local towns and cities to work, shop and visit family and friends. Councils, health services and other partners in West Yorkshire are working closely together on our plans to contain the spread of the virus.

The safety of our entire community always comes first. We understand the issues in Calderdale and are doing everything we can to proactively address them to reduce local infection rates.

What is the Council doing?

We are working with our local partner organisations to protect residents from COVID-19 and to prevent and manage outbreaks. To find out what we are doing, see Calderdale’s local Outbreak Prevention and Control Plan.

Working together with local communities is central to our approach. We are currently engaging with communities in the Park and Warley wards, where we have our highest rates at the moment. As well as this, we are providing more testing centres across the borough so that it is easy for people to get tested if they have symptoms.

Since the start of July we have increased our local testing by more than 60%, which is a really positive step forward. Testing is an important first line of defence in containing and controlling the spread of the virus, which we will be living with in our communities for some time.

We are delivering a care home COVID-19 prevention plan to protect those who are most vulnerable. This includes regularly testing all care home staff and residents, whether or not they have symptoms.

We are also supporting people who work in other higher-risk jobs, such as taxi drivers and shop workers, to help them stay safe at work.

We have identified workplaces that are at higher risk of outbreaks because of their practices, such as food processing plants, and we are visiting them to offer advice and support.

We are working closely with schools, nurseries and places of worship to ensure the best possible protection for their staff and the wider community.

What happens next?

As we are increasing COVID-19 testing it is likely we’ll see further increases in the number of cases in Calderdale for some time.

We are keeping our local situation and infection rate under regular review. If rates continue to rise, we will take appropriate action, but we hope that by asking local people to keep following social distancing and hygiene guidance, we will reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

For the latest local data on COVID-19 cases in Calderdale and some FAQs on this, visit our website.

Government guidance on when you don’t need to wear a face covering

Now that face coverings have became mandatory in shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and enclosed transport hubs, here are the instances when you do not need to wear a face covering.

Wearing a face covering will not be made mandatory in other venues that have measures in place to protect staff and the public from COVID-19. These include:

  • eat-in restaurants and pubs
  • hairdressers and other treatment salons
  • gyms and leisure centres
  • cinemas, concert halls and theatres

It is not compulsory for shop or supermarket staff or transport workers to wear face coverings although employers may consider their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place. Employers should continue to follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines to reduce the proximity and duration of contact between employees.

In settings where face coverings are required in England, there are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, where people are not expected to wear face coverings.  It is important that we are all mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings, and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • young children under the age of 11 (Public Health England do not recommended face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
  • not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • to eat or drink if reasonably necessary
  • in order to take medication
  • if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked:

  • if asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
  • if asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, the purpose of assessing health recommendations, such as a pharmacist, or for age identification purposes including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
  • if speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication

Exemption Cards

Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

This is a personal choice and is not necessary in law.

Those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this. Written evidence includes exemption cards.

Tips for wearing facemasks with glasses


Wearing a facemask or face covering is becoming the new normal, but one of the minor problems of the COVID-19 pandemic is fogged-up eyewear. This happens when warm breath escapes from the top of the mask and lands on the cooler surface of the lens. Ceri Smith-Jaynes from the Association of Optometrists (AOP) has come up with the following ways you can prevent your glasses from fogging:

  • Ensure the mask is well-fitted
    Take a little time to shape the nose wire on your facemask, so it closely follows the contours of your nose and cheeks and secure the top strap well. If your mask has no wire, you can insert a twist tie or pipe cleaner into the top edge of the mask. You could secure the top edge with micro-pore tape, if necessary. Alternatively, fold a tissue until it forms a strip and place it along the top edge of the mask before you put it on
  • Adjust the loops
    If you have a small head, you may find you need to twist the loops before putting them around your ears to get a snugger fit. If the mask has tapes to tie it, tie the top one high on the back of your head after putting on your glasses
  • Buy good quality anti-fog sprays
    Good quality anti-fog sprays can work well and can be purchased from most opticians. Never use washing up liquid on glass lenses. It can break down the anti-reflection lens coating gradually over the years, resulting in a crazy-paving effect for which there is only one cure – replacement lenses
  • Keep your glasses warm
    Your lenses will fog up more if they are cold, so wear your glasses or put them in your pocket to warm them a little before you need to put on your mask
  • Have your glasses professionally fitted
    Ring your optician and book an appointment, remembering to take your mask with you (and your face-shield if you need to work in one). They can adjust the nose-pads or sides to fit properly with your PPE. Varifocals will need to sit exactly right to ensure optimum performance
  • Try wearing contact lenses
    Contact lenses don’t fog up. If you’ve never worn them before, now is a great time to try them. If it’s been years since you wore contact lenses, ask the practice about the new options. You’ll need a professional fitting by an optometrist or contact lens optician. The range of prescriptions is vast; even if you wear varifocal glasses, there are options for you.

News from Age UK’s volunteering team

Age UK has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of vulnerable older people needing help and here is an update on how their volunteers have been adapting to the needs of older people during the coronavirus lockdown.

Here we publish details from their latest email update.

“It’s been around 4 months since we started adapting our services to the needs of older people in relation to the challenges presented by coronavirus and we feel humbled that in just 12 weeks, more than 5,225 people have offered to volunteer with us!

“To those of you who have been in a location with vacant volunteer roles and have taken them up with Age UK and our partner organisations, thank you! To those of you who we haven’t yet been able to connect with a suitable role yet, we are grateful to still be in touch and hope one of our upcoming volunteer vacancies will be a good fit for you.

“We’re delighted to have been able to re-open many of our charity shops, following strict safety procedures and Government guidance. But, we need your help!

The Age UK Volunteering team.

Age UK are now actively recruiting more volunteers to work in their shops, as not all their volunteer support has returned.  If you live near any of these areas, and have some time available and are happy to go out and work in a public place, they ask that you consider signing up to volunteer at your local shop by completing the full volunteer application found here.

Face coverings to become compulsory in shops

Wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England is set to become mandatory in England from 24 July.

Those who fail to comply with the new rules will face a fine of up to £100. The move will bring England into line with Scotland and other major European nations like Spain, Italy and Germany.

Currently, the public are advised to wear coverings in enclosed public spaces, where they may encounter people they would not usually meet, plus face coverings have been compulsory on public transport in England since 15 June.

Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt (How to let people know you are exempt)

The new mandatory rule for face coverings in shops is not expected to apply to retail staff.

Face Coverings have become a way of life for a lot of people, with more than half of adults surveyed by the Office for National Statistics in the first week of July saying they used a covering while outside their home.

Meanwhile, a report requested by the government’s chief scientific adviser suggests the UK could see around 120,000 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals during a “reasonable” worst-case scenario this winter.

A Government spokesman has said:

“The delay between the announcement and the rule coming into force on 24 July gives people time to prepare” but people will start wearing coverings from today
People are intelligent and responsible enough to wear face coverings and the mandatory rule sends “a much stronger signal that people will follow in greater numbers” Wearing face coverings in shops is an “appropriate mitigation” against the “overall risk” of the coronavirus but the rule would not work in pubs, cafes or restaurants. With all of our laws there is an element of policing by consent and so we need the public to play their part and abide by the restrictions.”


The latest rules for shops will be enforced by the police, with anyone disregarding them at risk of a fine of up to £100. This will be reduced to £50 if people pay within 14 days. While shop workers will be encouraged to prompt customers to comply, they will not be expected to enforce the rules, allaying unions’ concerns about their involvement.

See our guide to face coverings including information on exemptions.

Opening windows could reduce spread of coronavirus

A report by the BMJ suggests airborne transmission of the virus has been under-estimated and opening windows to improve ventilation is the first thing to do.

By Owen Dyer for the BMJ

Microscopic respiratory droplets generated by talking and breathing can hover in the air for minutes or hours and drift many metres horizontally before infecting people, argue 239 experts from 32 countries, in a commentary published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“We appeal to the medical community and to the relevant national and international bodies to recognise the potential for airborne spread of covid-19,” wrote the scientists, who include physicians, epidemiologists, and experts in environmental health and building design.

“Studies by the signatories and other scientists have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt” that airborne droplets can pose a risk beyond 2 m from an infected person, the authors argued. They cited the case of a Chinese restaurant where video captured an evening in which the virus spread from one table to others with no evidence of contact, direct or indirect, between the diners.

“By ‘airborne’ we mean that the virus can be transmitted by inhalation of microscopic droplets generated from breathing, talking, singing, and not just from coughing and sneezing,” said Don Milton, professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland and one of the commentary’s authors. “This does not mean that the virus can spread as easily over long distances as do measles or tuberculosis. Most transmission happens in closed, indoor spaces where there is poor ventilation and crowding, and people are close together and talking loudly or singing without masks.”

Researchers have been unable to grow coronavirus from aerosols in patients’ hospital rooms, but these settings were unusually well ventilated, the commentary’s authors contend.

Although the commentary does not single out any agencies, several of the signatories have lobbied the World Health Organization to recommend greater precautions against airborne transmission. WHO recommendations have prioritised hand washing and focused on the risk from coughed or sneezed droplets and infected surfaces.

The New York Times spoke to several anonymous WHO consultants who praised the agency’s overall effort but said that its infection prevention and control committee was bound by a rigid view of scientific evidence, was slow and risk averse in updating its guidance, and allowed a few conservative voices to drown out dissent.

The WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended protection against aerosolised virus only during invasive medical procedures such as intubation. The commentary’s signatories argue that agencies should be guided by the precautionary principle and should now recommend simple steps to counter potentially widespread aerosol transmission.

Some members of WHO’s infection prevention and control committee have pointed to the opportunity cost if poorer countries are forced to redesign ventilation systems to counter a threat that is still not fully proved. Hospitals that recirculated air might need to install special filters and decontaminating ultraviolet bulbs, diverting resources from treatment.

But just opening windows could be the most effective measure, said Lidia Morawska, a professor in atmospheric sciences at the Queensland University of Technology and the organiser of the commentary.

“Opening windows to increase ventilation is the first thing to do,” she told The BMJ. “What’s most important is the recognition that we need good ventilation to remove the virus from the air.”

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.