Face masks now advised in Wales 'where social distancing not possible'

The Welsh Government is advising people to wear "three-layer" face coverings in situations where social distancing is not possible.

The Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the best example of where the masks should be worn is on public transport, where social distancing cannot always be achieved.

He said a homemade or purchased three-layer face covering might reduce transmission from one person to another if made, worn, handled and removed or disposed of properly.

Mr Gething said the new advice is based on updated guidance from the World Health Organisation, which is now recommending that governments encourage people to wear non-medical face coverings in circumstances where more effective measures are not possible.

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Mr Gething stressed the advice to wear face coverings only applies to those who are non-symptomatic, and those who are showing symptoms must continue to self isolate for seven days and get a test.

He also said wearing a face covering "cannot be an excuse for ignoring social distancing measures."

"Maintaining social distancing wherever possible is a more effective measure than wearing a face covering", he added.

First Minister Mark Drakeford had previously said there was only a "marginal public health case" for non-medical face coverings, and that while people should wear them if it gave them "confidence", the Welsh Government would not be making their use mandatory.

It comes just days after the British Medical Association called on the Welsh Government to change their stance on face coverings.

BMA Cymru Wales council chair, Dr David Bailey, welcomed the news and said: “Wearing masks will afford greater protection to the public, and importantly, it will protect the lives of the staff working on public transport who, as evidence suggests, are at greater risk of infection.

“We absolutely agree that wearing face coverings cannot be an excuse for ignoring social distancing rules and urge the public to continue to follow the rules and practice good hand hygiene.”

Grant Shapps, the UK Transport Secretary, has already announced the wearing of face coverings will be compulsory on public transport in England from June 15.