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PDA Pandemic Series Update – 21 June 2020

With each edition, we aim to bring to your attention important issues either those that we are working on or general background information that helps you with your practice.

Sun 21st June 2020 The PDA

This issue specifically focuses on the wearing of face masks and their important role in containing the transmission of COVID-19 as the restrictions of lockdown are eased.

In this issue:

  • The wearing of facemasks – Latest advice from the World Health Organisation
  • The wearing of facemasks – The situation in Europe and globally
  • The wearing of facemasks – The situation in the United Kingdom
  • The wearing of facemasks – The experience of our members

The wearing of facemasks – Latest advice from the World Health Organisation

There has been a lot of debate around the effectiveness of wearing face masks in the community. The WHO’s interim guidance of April 6, 2020 had not recommended the use of face masks for healthy individuals in the community as a way to reduce or prevent COVID-19 transmission.

However, in light of evolving evidence, the WHO has updated its interim guidance to recommend the use of face masks by all individuals in public areas where there is ongoing community transmission:

“…taking into account the available studies evaluating pre- and asymptomatic transmission, a growing compendium of observational evidence on the use of masks by the general public in several countries, individual values and preferences, as well as the difficulty of physical distancing in many contexts, WHO has updated its guidance to advise that to prevent COVID-19 transmission effectively in areas of community transmission, governments should encourage the general public to wear masks in specific situations and settings as part of a comprehensive approach to suppress SARS-CoV-2 transmission.” (pg.6)

Facemasks can either act as source control (i.e. the facemask protects others) or prevention control (i.e. it protects the wearer). The WHO recommends non-medical masks for members of the public unless the wearer is a vulnerable individual (in which case a medical-grade mask is advised). The WHO guidance also details the type of materials for these non-medical masks.

The WHO interim guidance of June 5, 2020 can be accessed here.

The WHO has published videos on how to put on a mask (fabric or medical) and also how to take it off together with infographics. These can be accessed here.

The UK government has published a webpage showing how to make a simple homemade face covering. View it here.

The wearing of facemasks – The situation in Europe and globally

The wearing of facemasks has been made mandatory in many countries within Europe and globally. The impact can be notable, for example, Singapore introduced, on the 12th April 2020, the mandatory wearing of masks in public places such as supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies, and shopping malls. The rate of compliance was virtually 100%.

In Italy and Spain, nearly 100% of the population wears a facemask always or most of the time whereas in the UK the comparable figure is only around 33%.

You can read more about the approach of other countries globally in the wearing of facemasks publicly here.You can see the information for European countries here.

The wearing of facemasks – The situation in the United Kingdom

From the 15th of June it is mandatory for anyone (except young children or those with medical conditions like asthma) travelling by public transport in England to wear a face covering. A face covering can be made of any material and it can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head as long as it covers your mouth and nose.

Similarly, all visitors or outpatients entering a hospital must wear a face covering. All staff must wear a surgical facemask at all times. All staff within a GP surgery will have to wear a face mask and many are encouraging all presenting patients to wear some sort of face covering.

The Scottish Government currently recommends the wearing of facial coverings when you leave the house and enter enclosed spaces (especially in small enclosed spaces where a 2m distance cannot be observed). From Monday 21 June, face coverings will be mandatory on all public transport including buses, trains, the Glasgow Subway, Edinburgh trams, aircraft and enclosed areas on board ferries. A decision on whether face coverings will be mandatory in shops will be made by 29 June (the date when non-essential shops are due to open in Scotland).

The Welsh Government recommends that where it might be difficult to stay 2m away from others, they are advising the use of three-layer, non-medical face coverings. It states that the most effective way to protect yourself and others is to follow social distancing rules, avoid touching surfaces and your face, and wash your hands regularly.

The Northern Ireland Government also only recommends the use of a face-covering in enclosed spaces where a 2m distance cannot be observed.

  • The advice for England can be found here.
  • The advice for Scotland can be found here.
  • The advice for Wales can be found here.
  • The advice for Northern Ireland can be found here.

The wearing of facemasks – The experience of our members

PDA members, especially in community and hospital settings, have experienced shocking behaviours by members of the public and also by employers. Some large corporate owners have attempted to force locums to bring their own PPE including facemasks. Some have “banned” staff from wearing facemasks and other PPE:

“ masks or gloves to be worn whilst working under any circumstances ..”

Members in hospitals have also noted a generally unsympathetic attitude by “managers”:

“… Yet I have been stopped by senior managers of the hospital directorate and told to ‘stop wearing a mask in the corridors.”

You can find further member feedback here.




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