UK's rapid-fire changes on face coverings advice criticized

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The British government faced criticism Saturday for another sudden change in its advice on face coverings that has left those running hospitals in England scrambling to work out how they will be able to meet the new requirements. On Friday, as the World Health Organization broadened its recommendations

1 / 9Virus Outbreak BritainFILE - In this Friday, March 20, 2020 file photo, passengers wearing face masks travel on a Piccadilly Line underground train in London. The World Health Organization on Friday June 5, 2020, broadened its recommendations for the use of masks during the coronavirus pandemic and is now advising that in areas where the virus is spreading, people should wear fabric masks when social distancing is not possible, such as on public transport and in shops.

The government, which notably did not recommend their use at the height of the pandemic, now says face coverings can provide some limited protection to others and help people avoid unknowingly spreading the virus. Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS organizations including hospitals, said the British government appeared to be making last-minute decisions “on the hoof" that seem “overly influenced” by political considerations.

While acknowledging that face coverings will play an important role in the next stage of the pandemic, the BMA's consultants committee chair Dr. Rob Harwood pointed to the consistent lack of personal protective equipment through the pandemic, which has seen more than 40,000 people die in the U.K. across all settings, including hospitals and care homes — the second-highest figure in the world.

Britain hasn't been the only country in Europe grappling with the merits of face coverings, unlike many countries in Asia where people are used to wearing masks.


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