Chris Whitty says people should think about wearing masks in busy outdoor places

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People should think about wearing a mask in busy outdoor places like queues and market stalls, Chris Whitty said today.

England’s Chief Medical Officer said it “is a risk” when people are “huddled together”, even when it is outdoors.

Current guidance does not say people need to wear masks in busy outdoor public spaces.

But it has been recommended by some experts and politicians including London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Prof Whitty told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the risks from, for example, jogging past someone were "very low”.

Members of the public queue at a mass Covid-19 testing site in Liverpool (file photo)
(Image: Getty Images)

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But he said there could be an argument for wearing masks in some circumstances.

"If people for example are crowded together in a queue outdoors, if they're really huddled together round a market stall or something – that is a risk with this virus – and in that situation there might be some logic to people thinking about wearing masks,” he said.

Pressed on whether people should wear masks in all outdoor settings, he said the most important thing was actually that people stayed home unless their journey was essential.

"I think that the much more important thing is that people should not be leaving their home unless they absolutely have to," he said.

"And where they do, try and keep their distance from people."

Chris Whitty warned the next few weeks will be “the worst of the pandemic”
(Image: Getty Images)

He added: "In a sense tinkering with the rules may be useful, but the far more important thing is that everybody abides by the spirit of the rules that are there at the moment.

"Everybody knows what they need to do. And I think that's the key thing – minimise the number of contacts."

It's reported Health Secretary Matt Hancock and other ministers have been examining the case to extend the use of mask wearing

A source told the Telegraph that face masks could become mandatory in busy outdoor areas, while the rapid spread of the new and highly virulent strain of Covid-19 may also result in stricter social distancing measures.

But sources also insist their focus is on ensuring the existing rules are enforced properly, rather than making new ones.

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