Brits should wear face masks in all crowded outdoors spaces experts warn

Brits could soon be told to wear facemasks outdoors to slow the spread of the Kent Covid variant.

Ministers have drawn up new guidance asking people to consider wearing coverings in crowded parks, markets and playgrounds, official documents reveal.

Government scientists have backed the plans for public advice to be "strengthened" so rules are applied "more consistently and effectively," the Telegraph reported.

Papers recently released by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) show it has been working with the Government on the stronger public messaging which could also include communal areas in workplaces.

It warns risks are particularly high in "semi-enclosed spaces" such as transport shelters and street market stalls.

But suggests face coverings may be recommended for any outdoor spaces which are crowded or in which it is difficult to maintain social distance.

The Sage-backed document says: "Consideration should be given to using face coverings in a wider range of settings where people could be asymptomatic and may be in close proximity (less than two metres).

"This may include outdoor spaces where it is difficult to maintain distance and people may be close together for extended periods."

The paper from Sage's Environmental Modelling Group was drawn up on January 13 and endorsed by Sage the next day.

It also says face coverings should also be considered in corridors and communal areas of workplaces to prevent the spread of the Kent variant, which may be up to 70 per cent more infectious.

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And that workplaces that cannot fully enforce social distancing should consider other ways to protect workers.

These included "bubbling" groups together, offering regular testing and providing more support to workers to ensure they isolate.

It warned the benefit of face coverings in blocking transmission was hard to measure, with estimates ranging from seven to 45%.

Current guidance does not say people need to wear face coverings outdoors. The Kent Covid variant is said to be up to 70% more infectious and emerged in September.

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Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, previously said people should think about wearing face coverings in situations where they had to huddle together even if outdoors.

He said: "If people, for example, are crowded together in a queue outdoors, if they're really huddled together around a market stall or something, that is a risk with this virus and in that situation, there might be some logic to people thinking about wearing masks."

Whitty added: "I think that the much more important thing is that people should not be leaving their home unless they absolutely have to.

"And where they do, try and keep their distance from people."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said "infections and hospitalisations remain high, it is absolutely paramount that everyone stays at home and follows the rules to stop the virus spreading further, protect the NHS and save lives."

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