All hospital visitors and outpatients will need to wear face coverings and hospital staff must use surgical masks in England from June 15, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
Speaking at Friday’s Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said that those in hospital are “more likely” to catch coronavirus whether they work in a clinical setting or not.
Mr Hancock also said the new policy is being upgraded to ensure that “even as the virus comes under control” hospitals are a place of “care and of safety”.
Members of the public are “strongly urged” to attend hospital wearing a face covering, but no one will be denied care and masks will be provided by the hospital if necessary, a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokeswoman said later.
The move followed an announcement by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday that face coverings will be compulsory on public transport in England from the same date.
And new advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) encouraged people to wear homemade fabric masks in public where social distancing is not possible.
Mr Hancock told the press conference that face coverings could be “easily” made at home.
He said: “As the NHS reopens right across the country, it’s critically important to stop the spread amongst staff, patients and visitors too.
“So today we’re setting out that all hospital visitors and outpatients will need to wear face coverings.
“One of the things that we’ve learnt is that those in hospital, those who are working in hospital, are more likely to catch coronavirus whether they work in a clinical setting or not.
“And so to offer even greater protection we’re also providing new guidance for NHS staff in England which will come into force again on June 15 and all hospital staff will be required to wear type one or two surgical masks.
“And this will cover all staff working in hospital, it will apply at all times – not just when they are doing life-saving work on the frontline – and it will apply in all areas, except those areas designated as Covid-secure workplaces.”
It’s about protecting the NHS and social care, which means protecting our colleagues who work in the NHS and in social careMatt Hancock
Mr Hancock added: “We’ve also strengthened infection control in care homes and we’re working with the social care sector on how this approach can apply appropriately in social care too.
“It’s about protecting the NHS and social care, which means protecting our colleagues who work in the NHS and in social care.”
Evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has previously confirmed face coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission if someone is suffering from Covid-19, but not showing symptoms.
The Government is “confident in stocks of face masks to meet demand” and is continuing to pursue contracts for additional stock.
NHS staff already wear face masks in clinical areas within 2m of a patient, but this new guidance applies to everyone working in all areas of a hospital.
Further guidance for hospitals will be published next week to allow them to get stocks and plans in place.