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CIEH welcomes Welsh Government's mask-wearing decision

19 July 2021

THE CHARTERED Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has welcomed the decision from the Welsh Government to maintain the legal requirement for mask-wearing for the foreseeable future.

In advance of an update on the Coronavirus Control Plan later today from the Welsh First Minster, Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Government has stated that face masks will continue to be required in shops, on public transport, and when accessing health care, when Wales lifts most of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions on the 7th August.

The face mask rules will remain in place despite the UK Government's decision to scrap them in England from the 19th July.

As cases continue to rise, especially with large attendances at sporting events this summer, there is a need for caution. CIEH advocates keeping facemasks mandatory on public transport and in certain indoor settings, such as GP surgeries.

In a poll of CIEH members working across the country 65% said that they did not currently support the full lifting of restrictions in England on the 19th July, whilst 92% said that some form of control measures, such as social distancing or mask-wearing, should remain in place after that date.

There have also been concerns that the disparity of regulations in different areas of the UK could cause confusion amongst the public and make enforcement more difficult. Earlier this week Mr Drakeford expressed concern that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had not made it explicit that the unlocking recently announced by the UK Government only applied to England. 

CIEH is also calling for clear guidance and clarity from the governments across the UK on how businesses should be managing risk of COVID-19 going forward. COVID-19 remains a “significant” health and safety risk in workplaces, according to the Health and Safety Executive, and businesses have a duty to put in place measures to minimise risks as much as possible for their employees and the public. Regulators working for local authorities also need clearer guidance on when a business should be continuing to impose some restrictions or controls to manage the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Kate Thompson, CIEH Wales director said, “Facemasks should continue to be used as a way to control the spread of COVID-19 as the UK moves cautiously towards lifting the remaining restrictions.

"We strongly support the Welsh Government’s plans to maintain mandatory facemask-wearing on public transport and when accessing healthcare, and call for other UK nations to adopt similar approaches.

"The escalating number of COVID-19 cases does remain a real concern. CIEH has joined with other public health bodies in calling for a few of the basic safety measures, such as face masks on public transport, to remain mandatory in order to keep risks and cases down.

"The existence of differing rules across the UK will cause enforcement challenges, with our members having already expressed concern at the lack of clarity about the “personal choice” policy in England when deciding what protections to adopt and what will work within workplace settings.

"Businesses still have a duty to mitigate and manage risks and COVID-19 remains a “significant” risk in the workplace, to both members of the public and to employees, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

"Further clear guidance on this topic would greatly help both businesses and enforcers.”