Coronavirus has sparked a huge debate on whether wearing face masks can stop the spread despite the World Health Organisation advising against it. Experts and ministers have explained vital resources such as face masks need to be prioritised for frontline workers in fear stock could run low if the general public wears them. But countries across the world have begun making masks essential in public places.
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One expert has explained wearing masks can actually increase the chance of infection.
Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said it was due to a need to touch the face more which people have been advised against.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, professor Marshall, said: “There’s no research evidence to support wearing masks if you are basically fit and well, indeed if people wear masks there’s a risk they play around with it, they play with their eyes more and maybe you’re even at a higher risk of picking up an infection.
“However it is common sense that if they are coughing and spluttering then it makes complete sense to wear masks in order to protect other people.
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“I think the guidance that we’re expecting to hear is that the wearing of face masks is a voluntary activity not mandated and it certainly makes a lot of sense to focus limited resources that we have at the moment on those who have the greatest need and that’s the health professionals.
“This sophisticated kit is likely to be more rigorous, more useful, but actually it’s perfectly reasonable to wear a bandana around your mouth or whatever, that will work. It won’t be quite as good but it will be good enough.”
The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is expected to discuss the issue at its regular Thursday meeting, with a decision from ministers expected soon.
The World Health Organisation says masks are useful in some settings, including when worn by those who are ill, but says “the wide use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not supported by current evidence”.