Wearing of face masks and social distancing to continue within the Health Centre

Current Public Health England guidance outlining the legal requirements around masks states: ‘Face coverings are needed in NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries.’ 

The BMA has called for the Government to keep some ‘targeted’ measures in place when wider restrictions lift – including the requirement to wear a mask in healthcare settings. It has warned that an ongoing ‘alarming’ rise in COVID cases means ‘it makes no sense to remove restrictions in their entirety’.

The government ended mandatory COVID-19 restrictions on 19th July, to enable the country to return to normal. COVID-19 infection is still out there, despite the increasing normality we see in our daily lives. The infection rate remains at over 30,000 per day, and the death rate remains significant, though mercifully much lower than during the previous peaks. There is no doubt the vaccination has helped us get to where we are, but it is important to remember the vaccine does not guarantee protection against catching COVID-19 infection - an increasing number of cases are being seen in patients of all ages who have received both vaccination doses. 

The wearing of face masks is something we have come to accept as part of getting on with living with COID-19 during the worst of the pandemic. They remain one of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of COVID-19 infection. At the Health Centre we have to accept that some patients who enter the building will unknowingly have COVID-19 infection - they may not have any symptoms, and may even have been fully vaccinated, so spotting these cases is almost impossible. Because identification of infected people is so difficult the safest action to ensure maximum protection is to ask everyone entering the Health Centre to continue to wear a face mask.  This is in line with the BMA’s stance that ‘this cannot be about “personal choice” when the risk comes from others around you not wearing them. Not only is the wearing of face masks  the most effective way to avoid spreading the virus to others, but is also a courtesy to those patient and staff who are understandably nervous about abandoning these simple precautions.  

We will also continue to observe social distancing as a sensible precaution, until the effect of the lifting of measures elsewhere can be assessed. We feel that in an environment where by definition we are seeing some patients who are unwell with respiratory illnesses, and patients who have underlying health issues that increase their risk from any respiratory virus, these measures are a sensible precaution.