An infectious disease expert in the British government has suggested that people should wear masks with three layers. Public Health England (PHE) Senior Medical Adviser Dr. Susan Hopkins explained that wearing three layers helps reduce virus transmission. “The more layers you have, the better,” she said during a government briefing on Monday, March 1.
The U.K. government mandated that masks and other face coverings be worn on public transportation back in July 2020. This was extended to include physical shops the next month. Government guidance said masks should ideally be at least two layers of fabric, with more than that number recommended.
Hopkins’ remarks followed that of American infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recommended wearing multiple masks for more protection. The director of the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Jan. 25 that wearing two masks was “common sense.” He explained: “If you have a physical covering with one layer [and] you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective. That’s the reason why you see people either double masking.”
The British infectious disease expert raised the possibility of the U.K. following Fauci’s advice and recommending double masking. Hopkins elaborated: “What we recommend is at least two layers and, ideally, three layers in a mask. That is really important to reduce the virus transmission both from you to others and others to you.”
She then suggested that double-masking could cross the pond and arrive at the U.K.’s shores. According to the PHE senior adviser, discussions have been “ongoing” about revised mask regulations. “We have got a facemasks and face coverings advisory group who meet on a regular basis and look at new and emerging evidence. The U.S. has looked at some of that evidence as well,” Hopkins said.
“We think one mas that has more than two layers in it is currently effective for the vast majority of the population,” the British infectious disease doctor remarked. (Related: British government wants masks to be a permanent fixture on people’s faces.)
As much as scientists support mask mandates, a number of British lawmakers have expressed their opposition. House of Lords peer Claire Fox, Baroness Fox of Buckley, is among the members of Parliament against mask-wearing. The former member of the European Parliament slammed the recommendation for children to wear masks in school, calling it “clearly nonsensical” and detrimental to learning.
Fox took to social media, wondering “why isn’t there more pushback” on these tyrannical measures. “[What] about the confusion of face-to-face teaching in masks? You can’t assess children’s progress without seeing and engaging with their faces,” the baroness said.
As of writing, the Conservative government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not ordered primary school students to wear masks. However, it recommended that face coverings be worn in school areas where social distancing is not possible – at least until the Easter break. Ultimately, this leaves school administrators with the final regarding mask policies on campus. According to guidance by the U.K. Department for Education, “no pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.” Downing Street also issued a statement on Tuesday, March 2, which said that primary school children “should not be asked to wear face coverings” when they return to school on March 8.
However, some primary schools have not been swayed by government guidance on the matter of mask-wearing. At least two primary schools in England have informed parents that their children need to wear face masks in the classroom. Parents of students enrolled at Selsdon Primary and Nursery School in southeast England were informed that children as young as five years old should wear a face mask, except during physical education classes and when eating or drinking.
Selsdon Executive Headteacher Susan Papas explained that using masks allowed students to play safely with others. She added that the school has been “very successful” in enforcing the measures. Papas noted that children quickly became comfortable with the face masks and were still able to socialize normally with their peers.
Parents of students enrolled at Nascot Wood Junior School in Watford, located northwest of London, were also informed of a mask requirement. The school said children will need to wear a “well-fitted” face mask as its classrooms do not have enough space for social distancing. Nascot Wood administrators commented that the mask-wearing rule on school premises was not mandatory, but they claimed that their “vigilant approach” likely played a role in maintaining the low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases there.
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