Coronavirus: Scotland recommends wearing face coverings while shopping and using public transport

The Scottish government has issued a recommendation for people to use face coverings while food shopping and using public transport.

In new coronavirus guidance released on Tuesday, the government said “there may be some benefit” in wearing a facial covering when leaving the house and entering enclosed spaces.

It said this is especially the case when food shopping and using public transport, “where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people you do not usually meet”.

However, it added evidence about their effectiveness remains “limited” and as such has not been made compulsory.

A shopper wears a mask as he stands with a shopping trolley behind metal barriers, whilst waiting to enter a Tesco supermarket that is limiting customers entering, in north-west London on March 31, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. - The novel coronavirus pandemic has so far claimed nearly 38,000 lives worldwide in a health crisis that is rapidly reorganising political power, hammering the global economy and the daily existence of some 3.6 billion people. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
Scotland has issued a recommendation for people to use face coverings while food shopping and using public transport. (ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)

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Scotland’s move contrasts to the approach of the UK government, which on Tuesday was still resisting calls to recommend use of face coverings.

The Scottish government’s guidance reads: “We are recommending that you consider using face coverings in the limited circumstances described above [food shopping and using public transport] as a precautionary measure.

“Given that the evidence of impact on transmission is relatively weak, the public use of facial coverings is not being made mandatory and will not be enforced at this stage.

“However, we will keep this guidance under ongoing review as we consider any easing of lockdown restrictions in the weeks ahead.”

Read more: Epidemic can be controlled if 60% of population use NHS phone app, scientist says

Scotland defined a face covering as cloth or textiles covering the mouth and nose through which a person can breathe, for example a scarf.

The guidance made clear physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene remain the most important ways of restricting the spread of COVID-19.

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The UK government is yet to make a decision on whether to recommend face coverings, Downing Street said on Tuesday.

Experts on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) submitted evidence to ministers on the issue last week.

Ministers “are considering the advice they have been given and once a decision has been reached then we will announce it publicly”, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said.

Use of face coverings is widespread in east Asian countries, many of which have been successful in combating COVID-19.

Last month, Dr Pierre Chan, a leading medical doctor and lawmaker in Hong Kong, told Yahoo News UK 97% of people have been wearing face coverings since the outbreak began.

As of Tuesday, there had been just four coronavirus deaths in Hong Kong and 1,037 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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