PHE support care and health providers call for mask rules to remain in force
Care and health providers are calling for face masks to remain in use in care and clinical settings despite government plans to remove their mandatory status on July 19th.
Public Health England has responded to their concerns, saying that mask-wearing will remain a requirement “when entering a hospital, GP/dental surgery or another care setting”.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) said the threat to older and vulnerable people of all ages had not gone away even though the Prime Minister has announced that “Freedom Day” will be on 19th July.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “Everyone wants to get life back to normal, but as the Prime Minister said at the start of his announcement, we are ‘very far from the end of dealing with this virus’.
“Cases are still rising and those people of all ages being looked after in care and nursing homes, as well as in their own homes, remain the most vulnerable to Covid-19.
“I would therefore say that masks should remain compulsory for all those working in and visiting care settings for the foreseeable future.
“I also believe that care settings have to remain vigilant and careful around visiting and not let it become a free for all.
“In case people need reminding, we have lost 32,000 people in care and nursing homes to Covid-19 – we don’t want to lose any more mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or friends.
“Yes, we welcome a return to some freedoms but believe me, nobody in the social care sector is demob happy quite yet.”
Meanwhile , nine in 10 healthcare leaders in England polled by the NHS Confederation say it should continue to be a legal requirement for people to wear masks in all health care settings.
They are calling for clarity about where and when the public should wear face masks and for ministers to ensure that it continues to be a requirement in hospitals, GP practices, ambulances and other health and care settings.
One NHS manager said: “Wearing a mask is a small gesture but an important one as it dramatically reduces cross infection and will protect those still vulnerable.”
Another added: “It’s a small ask for potentially very large gain in keeping COVID transmission rates lower and keeping our patients and health and care staff as safe as possible.”
“If the public are not clear on when they should wear a mask and choose not to this will once again lead to the even more rapid spread of infection to the most vulnerable members of the population both in the community and within healthcare settings. The point of masks is not just to protect yourself but everyone else too.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “COVID-19 has not gone away and although the vaccine is helping to reduce the severity and impact of the disease, we really do have to continue to be careful and try to protect ourselves and each other.
“We know that face masks are proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19 which is why the overwhelming majority of our members are urging the government to be crystal clear with the public and say that it is mandatory requirement to wear a face mask in all healthcare settings. NHS leaders are very concerned that unless the message is simple and unambiguous people may get confused and make their own rules which could put others at risk.”
Public Health England said its infection prevention control (IPC) guidance would remain in place, with the current rules on mask-wearing in health and care settings unchanged.
The guidelines agreed by all of the UK set out the need for “use of facemasks/coverings by all outpatients (if tolerated) and visitors when entering a hospital, GP/dental surgery or other care settings”.
The guidance also recommends physical distancing of two metres and thorough hand hygiene, with “patients in all care areas still to be encouraged and supported to wear a face mask, providing it is tolerated and is not detrimental to their medical or care needs”.