Practices to continue mask wearing

Source: Practice Index 12/7/21

Practices should continue to require use of masks from next week to protect safety of patients and staff, the Royal College of GPs has stated.

It issued its advice as government ministers appeared to be backtracking on declaring 19 July to be “freedom day.” Under current legislation, there will be no requirement to wear masks in any public spaces after the 19 July – nor will social distancing be required. The college warned that forecasts of 100,000 infections a day, admitted by ministers, would have “significant implications” for general practice.

Chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “The safety of patients, and those delivering their care, must be paramount. This is why we are calling for the continued use of masks, and other appropriate infection control measures, in general practice settings post-19 July. We believe this is a reasonable and proportionate response to rising case numbers. It is also essential that the Government produces clear guidance encouraging the public to continue to behave cautiously and use masks in crowded public places, where appropriate.

“It should not be forgotten that much is unknown about the long-term impact of COVID-19. GPs and our teams are at the forefront of delivering physical and psychological support to an increasing number of patients suffering with long-term symptoms of the virus. Many report that they did not initially have a severe reaction to the virus. The easing of restrictions, and rising infection numbers as a result, means that more patients may suffer from symptoms consistent with ‘Long-Covid’, which will have long-term implications for the nation’s health.

“GPs and our teams are already working under intense workload and workforce pressures, making record numbers of patient consultations as well as delivering around two thirds of the COVID vaccination programme. In the face of rising case numbers, we need clarity on how GPs should be expected to prioritise their workload and ensure effective infection control in primary care settings – as well as what the advice is for patients who have symptoms that may be COVID, given our enhanced understanding of the virus.”

He spoke out amid continuing concern in some patient groups about the risks posed by ending lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted a note of caution last night. He said: “We are tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our roadmap out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning. Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS.”

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said yesterday: “The guidelines will be very clear on things like mask wearing. There’s an expectation for people to wear masks indoors, in crowded places, on public transport.”

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