UK News Tories warn masks hitting mental health and holding back Covid jabs
Face masks: How EU countries have embraced face coverings in pandemic to bring down the Covid infection rate
'Without a doubt, the combination of wearing masks and the fast vaccination programme has brought the coronavirus contagion rate down in Spain'Susan Michie, a member of scientific advisory board Sage, criticised ministers for failing to enforce the wearing of masks in indoor crowded spaces and said face coverings were vital for keeping people out of the health service over the winter.
Jacob Rees-Mogg today insisted Tory MPs do not have to wear masks in the Commons because they 'know each other' - despite Sajid Javid urging them to 'set an example'.
A Cabinet split emerged after the Health Secretary backed face coverings as a way to curb rising Covid cases, saying those complaining that the protections were being shunned in the House had a 'fair point'.
But Commons Leader Mr Rees-Mogg gave the idea short shrift when he was challenged about his own behaviour.
'There is no advice to wear face masks in workplaces,' he said.
'The advice on crowded spaces is with crowded spaces with people that you don't know. We on this side know each other.'
UK's daily Covid deaths hit SEVEN-MONTH high of 223
Department of Health bosses posted 223 fatalities today, up 23.2 per cent on last Tuesday's figure of 181. It was the highest victim count since March 9, when 231 people died with the virus. Deaths are recorded as someone who has passed away within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test and totals are usually higher on a Tuesday because of a lag at the weekend.Cases also increased, with 43,738 new infections recorded — up 13.5 per cent on the 38,520 last week.And the number of people being hospitalised spiked to 921 on Friday, the latest date data is available for. It was an increase of 20.2 per cent on the previous week.
He joked that 'it may be that the honourable gentleman doesn't like mixing with his own side', adding 'but we on this side have a more convivial, fraternal spirit, and therefore are following the guidance of Her Majesty's Government'.
Tory MPs including Andrew Murrison and Desmond Swayne also vented anger at the call to wear masks, claiming it was damaging mental health and hampering the vaccination drive.
And Downing Street pointedly refused to support the message from Mr Javid, saying it is a matter of 'personal judgement'.
The row escalated as vaccines minister Maggie Throup updated the Commons amid a clamour from scientists and doctors for tougher restrictions to curb rising infections.
Emergency Covid powers are extended for ANOTHER six months
Health Secretary Sajid Javid claimed the emergency powers were 'still necessary and proportionate to help with the pressure' as 223 Covid deaths were recorded in the UK on Tuesday.Health Secretary Sajid Javid claimed extraordinary measures used to impose house-arrest, close businesses and schools, and restrict gatherings, were 'still necessary and proportionate to help with the pressure' as 223 Covid deaths were recorded on Tuesday - the highest since March.
Few MPs on the have worn masks on the government benches in recent weeks, even when the chamber is busy - although the numbers were noticeably higher today despite there being plenty of space.
Deputy chief whip Stuart Andrew, health minister Gillian Keegan and trade minister Penny Mordaunt used face coverings in the chamber.
Grilling Ms Throup, Dr Murrison said: 'Will the minister ensure an obsession with non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as mask wearing, does not obscure the central message, which is that the way out of this is through the continuation of the UK's excellent vaccination programme?'
Ms Throup said the vaccination programme is the 'best wall of defence' for the UK.
Sir Desmond added: 'When we're increasingly concerned about mental health, the mask that she was wearing only moments ago deny us the fellowship and reassurance of her friendly facial expression.
Boris Johnson urges experts to cut wait for third Covid vaccine
Concern has been growing that the British rollout of the Covid booster scheme has been far too slow, putting the public at risk as cases rise. At present, over-50s and those with health problems are invited for their jab six months after their second dose.Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday called on ministers to cut the waiting time to five months.Mr Johnson agreed that it was an ‘extremely important point’. The six-month deadline was imposed by the Government’s advisers on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
'But the material of which it is composed has gaps that are 5,000 times bigger than the virus, aren't they?'
Ms Throup replied: 'I look forward to the time we don't need to wear face coverings because I love to see everyone's smiling faces, but we do need to make sure that we all get jabbed so we can get to that stage.'
Answering a question about whether all Tory MPs to wear masks, Ms Throup said: 'Plan A outlines the guidance that we have in place and that's the guidance that people should be following, and it's up to individuals to work out what works for them and what's best for them. Plan B incorporates mandatory wearing of masks but we're on plan A.'
Mr Rees-Mogg issued his own rebuttal at Business Questions shortly afterwards.
Mr Javid was challenged at a Downing Street press conference last night over why the Conservative benches were full of maskless MPs.
'That's a very fair point and I'm sure a lot of people will have heard you,' he said.
But the PM's official spokesman said today: 'It remains the case that it's a matter of personal judgment for all individuals on wearing a mask.
'We have very clear guidance which sets out that people are recommended to wear face coverings in crowded, enclosed spaces where they come into contact with people they do not normally meet.'
Mr Javid appears to have had a change of heart, after previously suggesting ministers did not need to wear masks during meetings as 'they're not strangers'.
'What we said is that people should consider wearing masks in crowded places when they are with strangers, when they are with people they are not normally spending time with,' he said last month.
Government guidance states: 'You are expected and recommended to continue wearing a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with people you don't usually meet.'
'Less than 20% chance' No10 will activate plan B, sources say .
Despite warning last week that UK daily cases could rise to 100,000 this winter, Downing Street is thought to have taken confidence from the fall in national infections in recent days and optimistic modelling.Despite warning last week that daily cases may rise to 100,000 this winter, Downing Street is thought to have taken confidence from the fall in national infections in recent days and optimistic forecasts by SAGE.