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Covid-19: Masks - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:18 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Wood of Anfield Lord Wood of Anfield Labour 4:18 pm, 11th June 2020

My Lords, this is the Government’s history on the issue of face masks. On 6 March, NERVTAG expressed concern that the public did not understand why face masks were acceptable for healthcare staff but not for them. The minutes explained that, unlike the public,

“healthcare staff are trained to use the masks and know when to change the masks when they become soggy or contaminated.”

In the remainder of March, as lockdown measures were introduced, face masks were not discussed. On 7 April, NERVTAG concluded that the increased use of face masks would have minimal effect on stopping people becoming infected. SAGE agreed. There was no further mention of face masks in SAGE until 11 May, when the Prime Minister issued advice that the public should wear “face coverings” in enclosed public spaces. On 4 June, the Transport Secretary said that face coverings would be mandatory on public transport from 15 June.

I support the use of face masks, but what on earth is the scientific rationale that justifies this handbrake turn in policy? We cannot expect people to know what they are doing unless the Government explain what they are doing. Until they do so properly, people will conclude that the Government do not know what they are doing.