Everyone should wear a face covering when they leave home in order to tackle coronavirus, the president of the UK’s national academy of science has said, the BBC reports.
Prof Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, said there was evidence that they protected both the wearer and those around them.
The UK was “way behind” many countries in their usage, he said.
Public Health England has previously said coverings did not need to be worn outdoors.
There are mixed feelings among the experts on the government’s scientific advisory group, SAGE, around the use of face coverings.
Some point to evidence that indicates coverings do not seem to slow the spread of flu when worn in Asian countries, and there are concerns they might give some a false sense of security.
But there is a consensus that they may reduce the risk of an infected person passing the virus on to someone else.
Speaking as the Royal Society published two reports on face coverings, Prof Ramakrishnan said the public remained “sceptical” about their benefits because “the message has not been clear enough” and guidelines have been inconsistent.
In late April, only about 25% of people in the UK wore face coverings, compared to 83.4% in Italy, 65.8% in the United States and 63.8% in Spain, according to one of the reports, which examined the factors limiting the take-up.
Not wearing a face covering should be regarded as “anti-social” in the same way as drink driving or failing to wear a seatbelt, Prof Ramakrishnan said.
“Not doing so increases the risk for everyone, from NHS workers to your grandmother,” he said.