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26.06.2020

Our Director’s Views: Face Masks and Coverings

One of the features of new government pandemic guidance for the public in June has been the increased use of face masks and coverings. This is likely to become an even more hot topic in July as the lockdown eases, particularly the reduction of social distancing from two metres to one and the opening up of hospitality services.

The public should always follow NHS and local authority guidance on face coverings but this has not been without its problems so far. The wearing of face masks or coverings in some settings, such as in hospital buildings and on public transport, is already compulsory but there is widespread variation on how and when the public are complying.

It is relatively easy to enforce the wearing of masks in hospitals, for staff, patients and visitors, but what about social care settings or where hospitals share facilities with other organisations? We know that significant numbers of people are not complying with the wearing of face coverings on public transport and enforcement action is both difficult and sometimes risky when there is only a driver available.

Some of the greatest concerns we have heard about have been the lack of communication or guidance for people who are exempt from wearing masks and coverings, such as people with breathing difficulties, young children and people with autism. These difficulties can be made even worse in extreme heat.

To their credit, NHS and local authority communication leads have responded quickly to this concern raised by your local Healthwatch and have now made more information available on exemptions.

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