Wearing face masks could help prevent coronavirus spreading in our busy outdoor spaces – and it’s time to consider this becoming compulsory in any area where you cannot keep at least a 2-metre physical distance, Dr Joe Pajak writes.


First published in December 2020.


Wear a mask!

Until recently, mask use has been a requirement only inside shops and businesses, with evidence ‘suggesting’ that the chance of transmission is low outside.

Many scientists have believed though, for some time, that wearing a mask more widely would be sensible during the pandemic, and now more UK politicians are beginning to support this view.

London mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced as much, on Monday, indicating that he was considering such a policy. His view being that making masks mandatory in London’s busy and congested shopping streets could help to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Sadiq Khan has now written to the government asking that “face masks in public places be made mandatory in the capital”, after thousands of people flocked to busy shopping areas at the weekend.

Among the scientists supporting this view is, Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford, who told The Times:

“In addition to ‘shared air’ (mostly an indoor risk), there is also the problem of being caught in the direct jet of an exhaled gas cloud when someone coughs, speaks, sneezes or just breathes out. If you’re close enough to feel their warm breath on you or smell their halitosis you probably need a mask even outdoors.”

Melinda Mills, Professor of Sociology at the University of Oxford, also said:

“When we looked at the data in June, there were 71 countries who required everyone in public to be masked. It was a minority of countries that chose specific complicated policies. It’s aerosol, it’s transmitted in air, this is good to do.”

Adding weight to this view some months ago, the British Medical Association (BMA) called for face masks to be made compulsory while outside. At that time, the BMA had called for new, stronger measures to halt spread of Covid-19 infection, including:

“Wearing masks in all outdoor settings where two metre distancing isn’t possible.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said:

“We have drawn on a range of expertise from within the BMA to publish a set of recommendations which we feel, if introduced very quickly, could have a positive effect.”

This view has also been supported by Professor Calum Semple, an expert in outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, who is a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). He said that people “should be wearing a mask” even when outside; adding:

“If you’re outside walking your dog on your own and you’re many metres away from other people then wearing a mask is making no difference. But if you’re in a city centre shopping precinct, or you’re queueing outside the shops then yes, you should be wearing a mask.

As President-elect Joe Biden said,

“Wearing a mask is not about making your life less comfortable or taking something away. It’s to give something back to all of us — a normal life.

It’s common sense really. Why take the risk, when you could simply ‘follow the science’?

Today’s data in focus

Today’s data indicates the dreadful fact that a further 506 people have lost their lives in the last 24 hours in the UK, while the number of deaths in the last 14 days is at 5,873.

Note: The data for deaths attributed to Covid-19, each following a reported positive test result for Covid-19 within 28 days of their death.

Today’s Government data indicate that there have been 245,043 new cases reported in the past 14 days, around 15% more than the 14-day figures reported a week ago on 8 December.

Today’s trendline chart, and headline UK Covid-19 data, are provided below:

UK Covid-19 headline data, reported on 15 December 2020 include:

  • 18,450 further positive tests
  • 506 further deaths in the last 24 hours
  • 1,637 further hospital admissions (reported as of 11/12)
  • 17,329 hospital in-patients in total (reported as of 13/12)
  • 1,288 patients on ventilation beds (reported as of 14/12)

320 days after the first case was reported in the UK, 1,888,116 cases have been reported, together with 64,908 deaths. However, these data include only those who have died within 28 days of testing positive; other measures suggest the number of deaths is higher: 76,287 being reported as “the total number of deaths of people whose death certificate mentioned Covid-19 as one of the causes, registered up to Friday, 4 December 2020.”🔷


Data source:



Dr Joe Pajak, Professional experience applied scientific research and development, then director of a national children’s charity, trustee of a disability charity, and governor of NHS foundation trust hospitals.


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[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 15 December 2020. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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