Senior medics have criticised the “illogical” messaging around face coverings, which could risk the spread of coronavirus.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said a second peak of Covid-19, combined with a seasonal outbreak of flu, could be “devastating for the NHS” and voiced criticism of Government guidance on the use of face coverings, the Guardian reported.
Face coverings are already compulsory on public transport in England, and the Government has made it mandatory to wear them in shops and supermarkets from July 24 to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
But BMA council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said introducing coverings in shops but not workplaces, or other areas where social distancing was impossible, was illogical.
He added: “Everyone has their role to play, but there needs to be clear, concise public messaging.
“To introduce measures for shops, but not other situations where physical distancing is not possible – including some workplaces – is illogical and adds to confusion and the risk of the virus spreading.”
Dr Alison Pittard, head of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, warned the NHS could be “overwhelmed” by a second wave during seasonal flu and said if people do not wear face coverings the virus could spread to levels seen earlier this year, the Guardian reported.
She added: “People might think Covid is over with, why do I have to wear a face mask.
“But it isn’t over. We still have Covid patients in intensive care.
“If the public don’t physically distance and don’t wear face coverings we could very quickly get back to where we were earlier this year.”
Their comments come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down the prospect of a second national coronavirus lockdown, saying he did not want to use it any more than Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent.
Mr Johnson said the authorities were getting better at identifying and isolating local outbreaks, although it was important that the power to order national action was held in reserve.
“I can’t abandon that tool any more than I would abandon a nuclear deterrent. But it is like a nuclear deterrent, I certainly don’t want to use it. And nor do I think we will be in that position again,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.
His comments could lead to further tensions between ministers and their scientific experts after the chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned on Friday there was “a risk” that national measures could be needed as winter approaches.
Announcing another easing of lockdown restrictions in England, Mr Johnson on Friday said he hoped there could be a “significant return to normality” in time for Christmas.
At the same time, he said the Government had given local authorities new powers to close specific premises, shut outdoor spaces and cancel events.
Earlier this week, Rochdale brought in immediate new measures to avoid a reintroduction of lockdown, as the town’s director of public health warned the “fight against coronavirus is not over”.
The borough followed Blackburn with Darwen and Pendle, in Lancashire, in urging residents to follow extra precautions such as wearing face coverings in shops and limiting home visitors to two people.
Residents in Blackburn with Darwen are being urged by @BwDMayor to "pull together" to help control the spread of coronavirus.— BwD Council (@blackburndarwen) July 17, 2020
Watch his new video address on the local measures announced by @BWDDPH here: https://t.co/hE9IZSOUVT@BwDDenise @OsmanSayyed
Figures released on Thursday showed the number of new Covid-19 cases in Rochdale for the seven days to July 13 was 30 per 100,000 population – a drop from 35.9 in the seven days to July 6.
Leicester continues to have the highest rate at 99.7 new cases per 100,000.
Dominic Harrison, the director of public health at Blackburn with Darwin Council, said the national tracing system was only managing to reach half of those who had been in close contact with a coronavirus patient in his region.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday, Prof Harrison said that Blackburn with Darwen faced a “rising tide” of infections.
Leicester became the first place in the country to have tight restrictions reimposed on June 30 following a rise in coronavirus infections.
The Health Secretary on Thursday announced a partial lifting of lockdown measures in Leicester, but said some restrictions still remain in place due to the high rates of coronavirus.
A cluster of coronavirus infections has been confirmed at an NHS Test and Trace call centre in North Lanarkshire.
The news comes as Scotland recorded 23 new confirmed cases of coronavirus – the highest increase in almost a month.
Three of these were in the Lanarkshire health board area.