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Covid-19: Masks - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:25 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 4:25 pm, 11th June 2020

We have compulsory mask wearing for NHS staff on 15 June at all times. At the daily rate at which the NHS uses face masks, are there enough masks? The Government announced on 28 May that all dental practices would open as normal from 8 June. They also have to source masks, competing with hospitals and care homes.

What about the general public? An article in the BMJ raises the ethical question: should the Government apply the precautionary principle and encourage the wearing of masks on the grounds that we have little to lose and maybe something to gain?

There are four key messages on Covid-19. The precautionary principle is to act without definitive evidence. It is contested that wearing masks will reduce transmission, and limited protection could prevent some transmission, but because it is such a serious threat, the wearing of masks in public should be advised under the precautionary principle.