Health minister raises ‘police state’ fears over enforcement of mask wearing

·3-min read

Britain risks becoming a “police state” if officers are required to enforce mask wearing to help combat Covid-19, according to a health minister.

Lord Kamall highlighted unease over how to enforce a mandatory requirement for face coverings after being told about precautions in Germany.

The Conservative frontbencher also claimed the link between Covid cases, hospital admissions and deaths has been “broken”, as he defended why the Government has yet to move to Plan B.

The back-up plan includes bringing back legal requirements to wear masks, asking people to work from home and the mandatory use of vaccine certificates.

Speaking in the Lords, crossbench peer Baroness Hollins recalled her recent experience in Germany and said medical masks are worn indoors in settings such as shops, restaurants, theatres, conferences, churches and public transport.

Two women wearing facemasks on a Tube train (Victoria Jones/PA)
Two women wearing facemasks on a Tube train (Victoria Jones/PA)

She added: “To enter you have to show a Covid green vaccination pass, the QR code is checked, or alternatively a same-day antigen test performed and certified in a pharmacy.

“It’s easy, it’s acceptable, it’s working and people feel safe.

“The death rate is much lower.”

Lady Hollins questioned if Plan B will provide the “same security” and happen soon enough to “prevent more deaths” before warning she fears the back-up option “may be too late”.

Watch: Labour calls for return to mandatory mask wearing

Lord Kamall said the Government is “relying very much on a range of scientific advisers to tell us if we need to move to Plan B”, adding: “But at the moment because we’re not where we were last winter, because we have broken the link between cases, hospitalisation and deaths, at the moment we’d prefer to try Plan A.

“But if we have to move to Plan B we will on the advice of our scientific advisers.

“But there are also some concerns and, as you can imagine, I think it was Professor Mark Pennington of King’s College London who said when assessing Covid-19 and the response to Covid-19, you have to look at it as a complex system and when one thing happens there might be a reaction elsewhere, but also unintended consequences.

“One of the concerns we have heard about mandatory face masks at the moment is who enforces it?

“Do we suddenly have more police enforcing it and become a police state?

“Transport workers are also concerned about having to approach certain people and ask them to put their mask on in a proper place for fear of abuse.

“So we have to get the balance right.”

A man is given a face mask to wear after being issued with a fine for not being in possession of and not wearing a face mask (Jonathan Brady/PA)
A man is given a face mask to wear after being issued with a fine for not being in possession of and not wearing a face mask (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He added: “Given that we’ve broken that link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths, we will try and stick to Plan A and encourage more people to get vaccinated and to reach out to those hard to reach groups.

“But if the numbers and the indicators are there and scientific advice tells us to move to Plan B, we will do so.”

Watch: COVID-19: Lack of mask wearing is 'compassion fatigue', says chronically ill woman forced to stay at home

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