Dr Peter English urged people to continue wearing face masks because a new and “more infectious” COVID-19 variant could be on its way once Omicron has fizzled out. Even though Covid-related deaths are plummeting, Dr English stressed that the risk has not yet been mitigated and people are not being asked to walk on water, as covering one’s face is “not difficult”. And face masks are not just vital to contain the spread of coronavirus and lower the risk of hospitalisations and deaths, but they can be used as a means to help keep seasonal influenza at bay, he said.
Dr English, who called on the Government to implement “more drastic” measures because of the “extremely transmissible” Omicron variant before Christmas, now said that wearing face coverings in public transport and shops are paramount.
Talking to Ian Collins on talkRADIO, he underlined that individuals with fragile health conditions should be prioritised and face masks don’t prevent people from living their normal lives.
He said: “Frankly we should still be doing so [wearing masks] because no matter how much we would like to think that the pandemic has gone away or is going to go away in the next couple of weeks, there will be another variant that will be more infectious than Omicron.
“That’s the way it works and we need to have rules that say when case levels are above a certain level, and they are still very high now, things that don’t interfere with what you do should continue.
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“Things like wearing a mask on public transport, wearing a mask in shops because there are huge numbers of clinically extremely vulnerable people.
“People with kidney transplants, people with cancer treatment, there are an awful lot people with lung disease and other things that make them extremely vulnerable.
“So to protect them we need to keep the mask-wearing!”
Flu is responsible for around 10,000 to 25,000 deaths in Britain each year, peaking between December and February due to the absence of humidity outside.
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“And we saw that flu is a very serious disease, it kills a lot of people every year.
“And we have seen that the non-pharmaceutical interventions, basically the distancing and the mask-wearing in public spaces… we hardly had any flu last season because of the Covid measures we were taking.
“And we can see now that if people wore masks on the tube during the flu season we have a lot less flu every year and a lot fewer deaths from flu.”