Coronavirus: Why isn’t Scotland advising the use of face masks?

FACE masks will not help the general public fend off coronavirus, Scotland’s national clinical director said.

Professor Jason Leitch said surgical masks can be useful to stop the spread of the disease through droplets if worn by those who have contracted or for healthcare workers dealing with people showing symptoms of Covid-19.

But he said there was no evidence to support claims the masks will stop people from contracting the disease.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “The global evidence – and we’ve looked properly, I promise you – is that masks in the general population don’t work.

“People don’t wear them properly, they’re hard, they’re difficult, they’re uncomfortable.

“Masks are not fun – particularly the very high-end masks.

Asian countries in particular have advocated the use of masks but coronavirus is spread through contact with droplets expelled from an infected person when they sneeze, cough or speak and is not airborne.

Prof Leitch explained: “There is a cultural tradition in Asia to do it. That is principally because they have had airborne viruses in the past.

“This virus is not airborne – it has to be spread by droplets – hence the social distancing, the hand-washing. All of that is about keeping the droplets away from person-to-person spread.

“If this were in the air then the instructions would be very, very different, but it’s not. So masks in the general population are not helpful.”

Despite the evidence, the US government is formalising new guidance to recommend that many Americans wear face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The recommendations are expected to apply to those who live in areas hardest-hit by community transmission of the virus.

It is believed that the guidance would suggest that non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth when outside the home.

However Dr Deborah Birx, co-ordinator for the US government’s coronavirus task force, told reporters the White House was concerned that the mask guidance would lead to a “false sense of security”.