Employers would be well advised to continue to encourage the wearing of masks if government isn’t prepared to mandate their use, according to the co-founder of Square Health.
Dr Bippon Vinayak, the executive chairman and co-founder of Square Health, (pictured) spoke to Health & Protection in the wake of the government’s move to remove the legal requirement for mask wearing from 19 July, which he branded “illogical”.
Vinayak described current public guidance on the use of face coverings in England as “inconsistent” and said it risked causing widespread confusion.
“The government will make the wearing of face coverings voluntary from 19 July, but they must be worn on the London transport network,” he said.
“The all or nothing approach by the government on a set date at a time of spiralling infection rates is illogical.
“Although the hospitalisation and death rates have reduced, Covid can cause a serious illness and evidence suggests that 10% will suffer from long Covid even after a mild infection.
“The primary purpose of wearing a face covering is to prevent droplets leaving the mouth or nose of someone who may be carrying and therefore potentially transmitting the virus to others but who has no or minimal symptoms.
“Using this logic, face coverings are not a protective strategy for the individual, but one for the population as a whole and therefore needs to be mandated.”
Social disancing, mask wearing and lateral flow tests
According to Vinayak if the government refuses to change its position on mask wearing it will fall on individuals and businesses to take effective steps while infection rates remain high.
“They should continue to practise social distancing and meeting outdoors or in well-ventilated areas and where this is not possible, they would be well advised to wear face coverings,” he continued.
“Employers may also consider the use of lateral flow blood tests in asymptomatic employees. Anyone testing positive needs to self-isolate pending a PCR test.
“It should be emphasised that a negative lateral flow test is not a green light to relax other measures to limit transmission.”
And Dr Julie Denning, managing director at Working to Wellbeing, told Health & Protection there has never been more reason for an employer to really understand their employee’s health needs relating to the workplace.
“If employers are opening up their workplaces currently, it is important they create a culture where their employees can speak out about their concerns and their health needs and, for example, to continue to work from home if need be.
“We work with a lot of patients who spent the majority of last year shielding and who are now feeling incredibly vulnerable about the changes due on the 19 July.
“They have concerns that their employer won’t understand their physical and/or mental health needs nor make appropriate adjustments. This includes people with long Covid who are often very concerned about contracting Covid again and further exacerbating their symptoms.”