‘Never say never’: Face coverings could become compulsory in shops in Wales – but CMO sounds note of caution
Face coverings could become compulsory in shops in Wales in the future, a senior adviser has acknowledged.
However, the country’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has also sounded a note of caution that it could lead to social distancing being ignored.
It comes after it was announced that wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England is to become mandatory from 24 July.
Dr Frank Atherton said he was keen to see the scientific reasoning for the decision and questioned the logic of people over the border being able to go into pubs and restaurants without face coverings but not shops.
Speaking on BBC Radio Wales this morning, he said: “We need to look at exactly what England decided to do. I haven’t seen any of the research and it was announced overnight I gather.
“There are inconsistencies everywhere and one of the inconsistencies that I need to understand in terms of what England is deciding to do is, how they distinguish between the risk to somebody in a shop.
“The shops in Wales in England have done a great deal, trying to re-engineer their spaces so that they can allow social distancing.
“I do struggle to understand the difference in England between a shop and a pub or a restaurant, where people will be sitting face to face less than one metre talking.
“There are policy inconsistencies appearing in the different countries that we need to explore and understand what’s best for the people here in Wales.”
Plaid Cymru has called on the Welsh Government to “go further and faster” on face coverings following the move in England.
Party leader Adam Price also said they should be made freely available to people, claiming the science had changed.
But Dr Atherton denied that was the case and expressed fears it could lead to the end of social distancing.
He said: “I never say never. At the moment, there are very low levels of viral transmission so it would seem to me inappropriate at the moment to introduce that change.
“We just don’t know what’s going to happen around the corner with this virus.
“We’re still learning a lot and I’m hopeful that we won’t have a second wave, but I do expect them to see local flare ups and local outbreaks.
“If that happens then it may be that we need to at a local level or national level about other things that we can bring in.
“Certainly, face coverings would be one of those, but it would be at the end of it quite a long list.
“Most of us have gotten used to this business now, of trying to keep our distance from people and I do worry that we might lose some of that, if we focus too much on face coverings.”
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