Scottish government recommends using a face mask in public
The Scottish government has advised people to wear face masks on buses, trains and in some shops.
The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has called for people to use a cloth mask when they’re in areas where it’s difficult to maintain safe social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
The first minister suggested people should wear a face mask in public spaces, such as on public transport or when entering a supermarket. However, Sturgeon was clear to emphasise that face masks should not be used as an alternative to the existing lockdown measures already in place.
“There may be some benefit in wearing a face covering if you enter an enclosed space where you will come into contact with multiple people and safe social distancing is difficult,” she said.
“To be clear, the benefit comes mainly in cases where someone might have the virus but is not aware of that because they are not experiencing symptoms and thus not isolating completely,” she added.
Instead of medical masks used by health and care workers, Sturgeon stressed the guidance related to cloth masks made from garments found at home, such as scarves and T-shirts. This follows the advice given to Americans by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) earlier this month.
Scottish government guidance also highlights how to clean cloth masks, and how to put them on and remove them safely:
- When applying or removing a face mask, wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
- After use, wash the mask at 60 degrees centigrade, or dispose of it safely.
While these new measures are recommended, wearing a face mask in Scotland is not yet mandatory and will not be enforced at this stage. Although, Sturgeon warned this would be kept under review.
This announcement comes as face mask use is already compulsory in China, Japan and South Korea. Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain have also followed suit more recently.
The UK government is not currently advising the public to wear face masks but has said it will consider the scientific evidence presented by its expert advisers – The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
For now, the coronavirus advice from Public Health England and the British government remains the same:
- Stay at home whenever possible.
- Only go out for essentials such as food and medical supplies, work or exercise once a day.
- Stay two metres away from others at all times.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds as often as you can.
The change in policy from the Scottish government will add to growing pressure on the UK government, especially after 100 leading doctors called for the use of face masks in public. The London mayor Sadiq Khan also made his views clear on the subject when he demanded the compulsory use of non-medical face masks in the capital.
Like the first minister, Khan suggested that facial protection should become the norm when people are making unavoidable journeys, or visiting the shops, and are unable to maintain strict social distancing.