Coronavirus: Boris Johnson to advise wearing face coverings in public

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Boris Johnson at Thursday’s coronavirus press conference in Downing Street, where he suggested he will advise the use of face coverings in public. (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/PA)

Boris Johnson has suggested the government will advise wearing face coverings in public as part of measures for easing the coronavirus lockdown.

The prime minister, leading the daily coronavirus press conference in Downing Street for the first time in five weeks following his own COVID-19 ordeal, said on Thursday that face coverings could be “useful” and also “give people confidence”.

It comes after the Scottish government set out a recommendation on Tuesday for people to wear face coverings while food shopping and using public transport.

Johnson said: “What I think SAGE [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] is saying, and what I certainly agree with, is that as part of coming out of the lockdown, I do think that face coverings will be useful both for epidemiological reasons but also for giving people confidence they can go back to work.

Shoppers wearing face coverings at a Tesco in north-west London. (ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)

“But you’ll be hearing more about that thing next week.”

The PM has said he will set out a “comprehensive plan next week” detailing how the UK will start to come out of the lockdown, focusing on the economy, schools and travelling to work.

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The lockdown will last until Thursday next week at the earliest, at which point it will be reviewed by the government.

Before Johnson’s remarks on Thursday, the UK government had long resisted calls to recommend wearing face coverings.

In its announcement on Tuesday, the Scottish government admitted evidence about face coverings’ effectiveness in preventing coronavirus transmission remains “limited” but that “there may be some benefit” in wearing them.

Scotland defined a face covering as cloth or textiles covering the mouth and nose through which a person can breathe, for example a scarf.

Meanwhile, Johnson has said the UK is “past the peak” of the COVID-19 outbreak, with the transmission rate “on the downward slope”.

However, the PM also announced a further 674 patients had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community, taking the UK’s death toll to 26,711. This is the third highest in the world.

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