Monday 13 July 2020 / 12:26 PM Health / Jonathan Ashworth

Labour demands urgent clarity on face coverings

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, has written to Matt Hancock calling for urgent clarity on the wearing of face masks in public places after conflicting statements from Government Ministers.

Noting the Prime Minister’s comments that face coverings may become mandatory, but that no guidance on this has yet been published, and noting that other Ministers have made statements that this should not be the case, Ashworth has called for a statement and clear guidance from Ministers on mandatory face coverings as lockdown measures are further relaxed in the coming weeks.

In a letter to Matt Hancock, Jonathan Ashworth said:

“Conflicting advice and conflicting statements from the Government only hinder our fight against the virus. Clear communication is vital in combatting the spread of Covid-19.

“For the public to know that they are doing the right thing in shops, restaurants and other crowded places, I am asking that you urgently set out the position on face coverings.

“As lockdown rules are further relaxed this week, it is vital that updated guidance on this issue is published by the Government without delay.”

Ends

Full text of letter:

Dear Matt,

I am writing to you regarding the continued uncertainty about the use of face coverings in public places.

On Friday 10 July, the Prime Minister suggested that face coverings could be compulsory in shops in England. Today he has said that a statement would be published on this “in the next few days”. The confusion around the use of face coverings and whether they will become mandatory needs to be addressed through a statement from Ministers as a matter of priority.

The World Health Organisation already advises that face coverings should be worn “where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments”.

However, since the Prime Minister’s comments on this topic, we have seen comments from the Cabinet Office Minister appearing to contradict the Prime Minister which has led to uncertainty and confusion about whether the Government will be changing the guidance on face coverings. Other Ministers have appeared to suggest that face coverings would only be recommended, rather than mandatory.

Conflicting advice and conflicting statements from the Government only hinder our fight against the virus. Clear communication is vital in combatting the spread of Covid-19. For the public to know that they are doing the right thing in shops, restaurants and other crowded places, I am asking that you urgently set out the position on face coverings.

As lockdown rules are further relaxed this week, it is vital that updated guidance on this issue is published by the Government without delay.

As you know, we want the Government to succeed in combatting the spread of this virus. Publishing clear and consistent advice on face coverings is vital in maintaining public confidence and keeping people safe.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Ashworth
Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care