Peer calls for 'mandatory masking in all confined areas apart from home'

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Peers have called for face masks to be made compulsory across a range of activities to combat Covid-19.

Leading the demands, Labour's Lord Campbell-Savours said a combination of track and trace, vaccination and masks would help avoid a second wave of the virus.

"We should have mandatory masking in offices, shops, schools, libraries, factories, hotels, pubs, garages - all confined areas apart from ones own home," he said.

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Lord Campbell-Savours said a combination of these measures would help bring coronavirus under control and to an end.

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a mural of a woman wearing a maskA woman wearing a face mask walks past a mural of a woman wearing a mask
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a mural of a woman wearing a mask

He welcomed the Government's decision to make the wearing of face coverings on public transport compulsory in England from June 15.

But he slammed ministers' overall response to the crisis as the "worst example of government incompetence in my political lifetime".

Lord Campbell-Savours said the UK was struggling against an "avalanche of new cases" and claimed the policy on face masks had been a "major contributory factor" in the death toll.

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"The Government's whole approach to this pandemic has been riddled with miscalculation, misjudgment and mistake," he said.

The peer added that the errors had cost thousands of lives, saying: "Those responsible will never be forgiven."

Tory former minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth said the country seemed to have been a "bit too leaden-footed" in response to the crisis.

To get the transmission rate down "we clearly need face masks in all sorts of venues", he added.

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Health minister Lord Bethell said a badly maintained or dirty mask could spread disease.

But face coverings could help combat coronavirus when used in addition to social distancing and washing hands regularly.

Lord Bethell said scientific advice on the efficacy of face coverings had not moved substantially.

The World Health Organisation had updated its advice in recent days to encourage wider use of face coverings.

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"But they have been clear that the widespread use of masks by healthy people is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence," he said.

The transport network would become increasingly busy as people returned to work and this was why ministers had made the wearing of face coverings compulsory from Monday.

The Government was clear that social distancing and hand hygiene remained the most important way to guard against coronavirus.

But face coverings "may help prevent individuals who have coronavirus but aren't presenting symptoms from spreading it to others," he added.