Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has called on the Welsh Government to make the wearing of masks mandatory in indoor public spaces.
The First Minister Mark Drakeford has previous said that face masks are not a “magic bullet” for preventing coronavirus.
However, Adam Price pointed to projections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation which show that up to 20,000 deaths from coronavirus could be prevented in the UK if everyone wore a face mask in public.
If these deaths were spread evenly among the four nations of the UK, this would equate to 940 lives that could be saved in Wales if everyone wore masks, he said.
Currently, face coverings are compulsory on public transport in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Face coverings have been compulsory in shops in Scotland since Friday 10 July.
“The UK has awoken to a lot of confusion about the use of face masks, but the evidence today is quite clear – further deaths can be prevented if face mask are worn in public. In Wales, this could be as many as 1000 people,” Adam Price said.
“The irony has not escaped me that while that Labour politicians in Westminster are calling for ‘strong and clear’ guidance on face coverings, their comrades in Welsh Government are issuing anything but.
“The guidance from WHO has – for some time – been that governments should recommended the use of face masks in public. This latest data from IHME has stepped up the urgency. This is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but, put more simply, a matter of life and death
“The same cautious approach that Welsh Government took in lifting restrictions is no longer appropriate when it comes to the implementation of safety measures.
“I’m calling on Welsh Government to make the wearing of masks mandatory in indoor public spaces such as on public transport and in shops, and to bring this in as a matter of urgency. If they do not do this, then as many as 1000 people in Wales could die needlessly.”
‘Better to use’
Technical guidance from the World Health Organisation on the use of face masks states: “to prevent COVID-19 transmission effectively in areas of community transmission, governments should encourage the general public to wear masks in specific situations and settings as part of a comprehensive approach to suppress SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Prof Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology and Director of Centre for Behaviour Change UCL and participant in both SAGE and Independent SAGE said “The evidence has been increasing that demonstrates that, on balance, in enclosed, indoor public spaces, it is better to use face masks.”
Prof Anthony Costello, Professor of Global Health and Sustainable Development at UCL, former Director at WHO and participant in Independent SAGE, said: “Our [Independent SAGE] message is to wear masks indoors. Wear masks in public places. And ministers should be setting a good example. And they’re not.”