A coronavirus expert has suggested wearing masks ‘probably won’t do any good’ if the guidance is not followed by everyone when legal restrictions are lifted on Monday, July 19.
Sage member Professor Graham Medley said he would still wear a face covering when the Government ends the legal requirement next week – but questioned how much good it would do if 30% of the public don’t do the same.
He added that a summer peak of Covid cases was likely to place a ‘considerable burden’ on the NHS amid growing unease about the unlocking.
The chairman of the Sage modelling subgroup Spi-M told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I personally will wear a mask to protect other people.
‘I think it’s quite a reasonable thing to do; it doesn’t have a huge imposition in terms of economic impact or in terms of freedom, and I think there is evidence to suggest it does good, but only if everybody does it.
‘So I think that, without the mandation, then we end up with a situation where even if the majority of people, let’s say 70% of people wear a mask, will that actually do any good because of the 30% who don’t? I think that is something which still needs to be determined and discussed.’
He added: ‘I understand the Government’s reluctance to actually mandate it. On the other hand, if it’s not mandated it probably won’t do any good.’
The intervention comes as doctors expressed concerns about nearly all legal restrictions being lifted in England, including the need to wear face masks, despite a surge in Covid cases.
There is some division among scientists around the timing of the unlocking, but many have called for caution and for people to continue wearing face masks.
The vast majority of experts agree that face coverings do help stop the spread of Covid-19, particularly in crowded indoor settings, by stopping droplets from people’s noses and mouths.
Meanwhile, Professor Medley suggested the summer peak could last six weeks.
He said: ‘We’ve never seen a peak before that hasn’t been controlled.
‘The intention is not to introduce a lockdown for this peak. Then we are going to see a natural peak and that may well be long and disseminated.’
Suggested that 1,000 – 2,000 hospital admissions each day are ‘likely’, he went on: ‘Even if we don’t get up to very high numbers, the numbers that we get up to might last for several weeks, six weeks or so, in which case there’s still a considerable burden on healthcare.
‘So, although we might not get over 2,000 admissions a day, if that lasts six weeks then that’s a lot of people.’
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