The Government’s top scientific experts believe using face masks could help stop asymptomatic people, those who are infected but don’t show any symptoms, from passing on coronavirus. The guidance, discussed by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) in a meeting on Tuesday, will ask Britons to cover their mouth and nose when heading to public places where social distancing cannot be observed. But people will be allowed to use homemade face masks or even just a scarf.
The new guidance, reported by the Sun, will apply to people who visit confined spaces where the two metre social distancing rules are impossible to adhere to, such as public transport and offices.
But masks will not be needed in all public places, with parks or quiet streets being exempt.
The Government is not expected to make mask wearing compulsory, but it hasn’t been entirely ruled out in it’s post-lockdown strategy.
People will be advised not to wear medical-grade masks, in order to ensure resources are not stopped from reaching the NHS.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons yesterday that the Government would not hand out free masks to the public, as some other countries have done.
He said: “I can’t promise that we will give everybody free masks. I mean, that would be an extraordinary undertaking.
“And we do have to make sure that we have supplies available especially for health and care staff, where the scientific advice throughout has been that the wearing of masks is necessary in those circumstances, and we’ve got to make sure the provision is there for them.”
If the UK were to advise the public to cover their face, it would join the US – which is advising the use of “simple cloth face coverings” – as well as a number of European states such as Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia which have made them compulsory to wear on public transport and in shops.
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11.36am update: Greece extends coronavirus lockdown
Greece has extended its coronavirus lockdown but a week to May 4.
Greek authorities said any relaxation of the measures would then be staggered out over May and June.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said: “The objective of the confinement measures is not to remain in a glass bowl, stuck in our homes.
“The objective is to take our lives back and win back our way of life which was temporarily deprived of us by this cunning and invisible enemy.”
11.14am update: Jenny Harries reveals she has had COVID-19
Dr Jenny Harries, who regular features in the Government’s daily press conferences, has revealed she has had coronavirus.
The deputy chief medical officer for England told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I found it a very unpleasant experience. I wasn’t well at all.
“I didn’t necessarily have some of the clear respiratory symptoms and I think it’s always useful as a doctor, it’s a good dose of medicine for us to experience things and to know how other people feel …
“I was probably off for about 10 days. I knew I was unwell.
“The offness had more to do with the fact I hadn’t been eating and was generally quite frail.”
10.48am update: Pupils could attend school part time
Pupils could be sent back to school part-time in order to maintain social distancing, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
She said children may return to classrooms only for “certain days a week” under a rota system.
The Scottish Government is expected to publish a “blueprint” lockdown exit strategy later today.
10.31am update: Cruises suspended until at least end of July
P&O Cruises and Cunard have announced they have extended the suspension of sailings until at least the end of July.
The cruise lines had previously cancelled all trips up to May 15.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “With the current lockdown in place and Government guidelines around the world advising against travel, it is necessary to extend the pause in our operations for all sailings up to and including July 31 2020.
“We are so sorry not to be able to give our guests amazing holidays at the moment, but we will do so as soon as global guidelines will allo
10.22am update: Coronavirus POLL: Should doctors prioritise treatment based on a patients age? VOTE HERE
9.53am update: More than a quarter of Britain’s workforce furloughed
More than a quarter, 26 percent, of Britain’s workforce was furloughed across 6,150 businesses that were still trading or who had paused trading by April 5, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
As many as 78 percent of staff were furloughed in firms polled that had temporarily closed or put trading on hold between March 23 and April 5.
9.22am update: France set to reopen ‘all shops’ on May 11
The French government wants to reopen all shops, other than restaurants and bars, once the nationwide lockdown is lifted on May 11, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday.
Mr Le Maire told France Info radio said: “We want all retailers to be able to open on May 11 in the same way out of fairness.”
But he added: “I would only set aside restaurants, bars and cafes.”
9.03am update: More people should be being tested for COVID-19
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has said it is “dreadful” that more Britons are not getting tested for the coronavirus.
He told ITV: “I think it’s dreadful we can’t get more people tested.
“That’s why … we do upscale the ability for people to access these tests.”
Ministers are desperately trying to reach the target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.
But at the moment fewer than 23,000 people are being tested.