Ministers should urge people to wear facemasks in outdoor areas, SAGE experts say 

People should be told to wear face masks in crowded outdoor spaces like parks, playgrounds and food stalls, government scientists have urged ministers.

Papers released by Sage, the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies, say advice on the use of face coverings should be strengthened so rules are applied more ‘consistently and effectively’ in the fight against the Kent variant of coronavirus.

While shops and offices are strictly enforcing mask wearing already, the document, drawn up on January 13, says people should consider protecting themselves in ‘outdoor spaces where it is difficult to maintain distance’.

It comes after shocking photos from the last few weekends show parks across the UK packed with joggers, tourists and dog walkers struggling to find their own space.

While shops and offices are strictly enforcing mask wearing already, the document, drawn up on January 13, says people should consider protecting themselves in 'outdoor spaces where it is difficult to maintain distance

While shops and offices are strictly enforcing mask wearing already, the document, drawn up on January 13, says people should consider protecting themselves in 'outdoor spaces where it is difficult to maintain distance

While shops and offices are strictly enforcing mask wearing already, the document, drawn up on January 13, says people should consider protecting themselves in ‘outdoor spaces where it is difficult to maintain distance

Metropolitan Police in Tower Hamlets even issued a warning to Londoners to avoid Victoria Park after it became ‘so busy’ that even walkers could struggle to socially distance.

‘Consideration should be given to using face coverings in a wider range of settings where people could be asymptomatic and may be in close proximity (less than 2m),’ it reads.

‘This may include outdoor spaces where it is difficult to maintain distance and people may be close together for extended periods (medium confidence).’

The paper, put together by Sage’s Environmental Modelling Group, says that risks of infection are very high in ‘semi-enclosed spaces’ such as ‘covered seating areas, transport shelters or street market stalls’.

It comes after shocking photos from the last few weekends show parks across the UK packed with joggers, tourists and dog walkers struggling to find their own space. Pictured: People cross a bridge over the rail tracks in Wandsworth Common

It comes after shocking photos from the last few weekends show parks across the UK packed with joggers, tourists and dog walkers struggling to find their own space. Pictured: People cross a bridge over the rail tracks in Wandsworth Common

It comes after shocking photos from the last few weekends show parks across the UK packed with joggers, tourists and dog walkers struggling to find their own space. Pictured: People cross a bridge over the rail tracks in Wandsworth Common

The call to strengthen rules around face covering hopes to prevent the spread of the Kent variant, which may be up to 70 per cent more infectious. 

Earlier, Prof Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, said people should think about wearing face coverings where they might have to huddle together, even outdoors.

The paper says scientists are working with Public Health England and the Cabinet Office on a communications strategy for such messages. 

Government guidance stipulates dozens of indoor settings where face masks must be worn but does not say that people must them at any point outdoors.

Semi-outdoor areas such as train station platforms are however covered by the restrictions.

Earlier, Prof Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, said people should think about wearing face coverings where they might have to huddle together, even outdoors

Earlier, Prof Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, said people should think about wearing face coverings where they might have to huddle together, even outdoors

Earlier, Prof Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, said people should think about wearing face coverings where they might have to huddle together, even outdoors

Earlier this month Prof Whitty said there could be an argument for wearing masks in some circumstances.

‘If people, for example, are crowded together in a queue outdoors, if they’re really huddled together around a market stall or something – that is a risk with this virus – and in that situation there might be some logic to people thinking about wearing masks,’ he said.

Pressed on whether people should wear masks in all outdoor settings, he said the most important thing was that people stayed at home unless their journey was essential.

‘I think that the much more important thing is that people should not be leaving their home unless they absolutely have to,’ he said.

‘And where they do, try to keep their distance from people.’ 

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