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Covid-19: Masks - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:14 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Skidelsky Lord Skidelsky Crossbench 4:14 pm, 11th June 2020

My Lords, I welcome the Government’s decision to make mask wearing compulsory on public transport from 15 June, but I believe that this needs to be accompanied by two further measures. First, mask wearing should be encouraged by distributing free masks to all households. Japan and Turkey have done just that. Secondly, the recommended measurement for social distancing should be cut. We are now almost alone in asking for two metres. One metre is the distance recommended by the WHO; Austria, Germany and Holland advise 1.5 metres; and Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Italy and China advise one metre. Our Government have made no effort to test the trade-off between social distancing and wearing masks. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, admitted on 1 June in his reply to a Written Question that I asked:

“No assessment has been made of the change to a face covering’s health benefit when social contact is at two, one and zero metres.”

Common sense suggests that wearing a mask reduces the distance you should keep from someone else. Giving people the confidence to interact normally is the key to reopening schools and to economic recovery.