News | Published July 15 2020

Hancock: No plans to extend mandatory face coverings to offices

Health secretary Matt Hancock has denied reports that office workers will be made to wear face coverings when working.

Hancock told the BBC that extending face coverings to the office environment is something the government had “looked at and rejected”.

He did add, however, that the public should wear masks elsewhere “for the foreseeable future”.

The use of face coverings in shops in England will become obligatory from July 24.

Hancock said that using face coverings will help prevent the spread of infection in brief encounters with others and "give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protections for those who work in shops".

Yet, the health secretary stressed that adhering to social distancing and good hygiene practices such as hand washing are paramount when in contact with others for longer periods of time.

He explained that face coverings were useful “in a shop or public transport, for instance, when you're with somebody for a reasonable amount of time - a few minutes - but not all day.”

Hancock said: “When you’re in close proximity with somebody that you have to work closely to, if you're there for a long time with them, then a mask doesn't offer that protection.

"The same logic applies for schools - we're not recommending masks for schools because if you're in a classroom with kids all day then a mask doesn't give you protection.

"The point is when you're in interaction with people who you aren't normally with, that's where the mask may be particularly helpful.”

He continued: "We are not proposing to extend masks to offices."

The public will be expected to wear masks “for the foreseeable future” at NHS facilities as well as in shops and on public transport. Non-compliance will be punishable by a fine of up to £100, but children under 11, people with certain disabilities and shop workers will be exempt.

The government first made face coverings compulsory on public transport in England and in UK-wide NHS facilities from June 15.

Scotland has its own policy in place which requires face coverings in shops, and Wales and Northern Ireland are considering bringing local policy in line. 

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
July 15 2020

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