Coronavirus: UK public urged to wear face coverings

Government road map for reopening society may include link up via household ‘bubbles’

International travellers will be asked to quarantine for 14 days when they enter the country. Photograph: Getty

International travellers will be asked to quarantine for 14 days when they enter the country. Photograph: Getty


People in England should wear face coverings in some settings, the government has said as it published its “road map” which could include people being able to link up with one other household in a “bubble”.

The new document, published just before Boris Johnson is due to deliver a Commons statement, said one household may in future be allowed to join up with one other as a way of easing the long-term restrictions on people’s lives.

The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has been asked to look at the model as people get set to live with social distancing measures in the long term.

However, for now, people are being told to socialise only with their current household. They are permitted to meet one other person from one other household in the outdoors as long as they stay 2m apart.

The new plan for England sets out what the government sees as being possible now and what may be possible in the future.

It says:

  • International travellers will be asked to quarantine for 14 days when they enter the country, either in accommodation of their choice or provided by the government if there are no other options;
  • The government’s ambition is that all primary school children will be able to go to school for a month before the summer holidays;
  • Non-essential retail could be able to open no earlier than June 1 if it can be proven they can keep people safe;
  • Those who are shielding should continue to shield though it may become clear that those less at risk can be given more freedoms;
  • The government is examining “how to enable people to gather in slightly larger groups to better facilitate small weddings”;
  • Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces such as public transport and some shops. They should not be worn by the under-twos, young children who will find them hard to manage and those with respiratory conditions. People should wash their hands before putting them on and taking them off;
  • Those who are not in the shielded group but who are more vulnerable to Covid-19, such as the over-70s, should “continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households, but do not need to be shielded”.
  • Cultural and sporting events will be able to take place behind closed doors for broadcast from next month, avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact;
  • No earlier than July 4th, the ambition is to “open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care [such as hairdressers and beauty salons], hospitality [such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation], public places [such as places of worship] and leisure facilities [like cinemas]. They will need to meet “Covid secure” guidelines and some may not meet the requirement.

The document also sets out how restrictions may be lifted and implemented on a regional basis, depending on local levels of infection.

The document says “the government may adjust restrictions in some regions before others: a greater risk in Cornwall should not lead to disproportionate restrictions in Newcastle if the risk is lower”.

An annexe to the document says people are unlikely to get infected if they walk past somebody in the street, but they should avoid standing face to face with somebody where possible, with standing side to side offering a lower risk.

People are also urged to continue washing their hands regularly and to wash their clothes often if they work with people outside the home.

Indoor places should also be well ventilated as “evidence suggests that the virus is less likely to be passed on in well-ventilated buildings and outdoors”.

On face coverings, the guidance says surgical face masks should be reserved for health workers, adding: “Face coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically.”

The document fleshes out announcements made by Mr Johnson on Sunday, including that people may exercise outside as many times per day as they wish, including pursuits such as angling and tennis.

However, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and ticketed outdoor leisure venues will remain closed.

The document adds: “You can only exercise with up to one person from outside your household – this means you should not play team sports, except with members of your own household.

“People may drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance, so long as they respect social distancing guidance while they are there, because this does not involve contact with people outside your household.”

However, the document warns that if “people begin to break these rules and, for example, mix in groups in parks”, restrictions will be brought in.

On schools, the document says approximately 2 per cent of children are attending school in person but says schools should urge vulnerable children and those of critical workers to attend.

What about childcare?

The government is also amending its guidance to clarify that paid childcare, for example nannies and childminders, can happen as long as good public health measures are adhered to. This could help parents return to work.

Nurseries are expected to reopen no earlier than June 1st – at the same time as reception, year one and year six return to primary schools.

The government has yet to publish guidance on how workplaces can become “Covid secure” but the new road map says “social distancing guidance on public transport must be followed rigorously”.

The report says that if the overall infection data suggests the virus is spreading again, the government “will have to tighten restrictions, possibly at short notice”.

It also says the government is hoping a vaccine or drug treatments will be developed against Covid-19, but says this cannot be relied upon.

In a foreword to the report, Mr Johnson says: “This is one of the biggest international challenges faced in a generation. But our great country has faced and overcome huge trials before. Our response to these unprecedented and unpredictable challenges must be similarly ambitious, selfless and creative.

“Thank you for your efforts so far, and for the part everyone in the UK will play over the months ahead.” – PA

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