UK stockpiling coronavirus face masks for public to wear on trains and in shops


Britain is stockpiling face masks to be used on public transport and in shops.

Michael Gove revealed that a “domestic effort” has been launched to slow the spread of coronavirus by producing masks that “limit the droplets that each of us might be responsible for”.

His commitment comes after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gazumped the UK government in advising Scots to wear masks.

She told her daily briefing that coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces, such as shops or on public transport.

It is thought that her advice is likely to become UK-wide guidance in the coming days, although the government in Westminster has so far stopped short of it, referring to the science behind their effectiveness as “weak”.

The Telegraph reports that the government wants to delay an announcement on face coverings until it has stockpiled enough.

A stockpile of face coverings is being built up

The government yesterday said it is carefully reviewing the advise of its SAGE scientific committee and will make public any changes in policy.

In a Commons exchange with his Labour shadow Rachel Reeves, Mr Gove said: “I can confirm Lord Agnew, the joint Cabinet Office and Treasury minister, has launched a domestic effort to ensure we produce just such masks and that is part of the broader effort that Lord Deighton is leading on ensuring we can bolster the production of personal protection equipment.”

Ms Sturgeon said that while the evidence was limited, wearing face coverings could help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus by those people who are not yet showing symptoms.

“We are recommending that you do wear a cloth face covering if you are in an enclosed space with others where social distancing is difficult, for example public transport or in a shop,” she told her daily briefing.

“Let me emphasize the key point here which is that you should not really be in situations very often like that right now, if you are complying with the stay-at-home rules.”

But Downing St insisted that a change to the rules in the UK was not imminent.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “SAGE’s review has been sent to ministers who are reviewing it carefully. Once a decision has been reached we will announce it publically.

“Ministers are considering the advice and once we reach a decision we will say so.”

Michael Gove confirmed that efforts to produce face coverings are under way

Ms Sturgeon said the new guidance is related to “face coverings made of cloth or other textiles, such as a scarf” and not medical-grade masks.

She said: “The guidance we are publishing today firstly makes clear the most important step we can all take to prevent transmission of the virus is to comply with the current stay at home social distancing and hygiene rules.”

The First Minister said face coverings are “not a substitute for that”, adding the evidence on their use is “still limited”.

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