Various healthcare organisations from across England have written to the prime minister calling for face masks to be mandatory in all healthcare settings.

The wearing of face masks or coverings will no longer be a legal requirement in England from July 19, but prime minister Boris Johnson has said it will be a matter of “personal responsibility”.

The letter — jointly signed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the British Medical Association, British Dental Association, Royal College of Nursing and the College of Optometrists — calls for mandatory use of face masks, social distancing and regular handwashing by the public to stay in place in all healthcare settings beyond the government’s July 19 ‘freedom day’.

The signatories have also asked for the use of appropriate respiratory protection for healthcare staff and improvements in ventilation wherever it is required.

Thorrun Govind, chair of RPS in England, said: “Using masks in healthcare environments means staff and the public are taking steps to protect each other from Covid-19. It should, therefore, remain mandatory that they are worn past July 19.

“Despite some pharmacies being in retail environments, they remain a healthcare setting and have been relied upon to support and protect the public over the past 18 months.

“We are therefore calling on the government to make a decision to support and protect pharmacists and healthcare professionals, as well as the public.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of BMA Council, said: “Scrapping the remaining restrictions next week – when a significant proportion of the population still has not been fully vaccinated – will give this deadly virus an opportunity to retighten its grip; pushing infection rates up, increasing hospitalisations and people ill with long-Covid, risking new vaccine-resistant variants developing, and putting more lives at unnecessary risk.

“While the government has said it will continue to encourage the wearing of face coverings after the 19th, within the same breath ministers confirm that masks will not be mandatory. This is contradictory and shows the government absolving itself of responsibility while heaping pressure on the public, confused by mixed messaging of the highest order. Ministers must now reassess the decision to lift the remaining restrictions on July 19. Until then, we urge the public to continue taking every precaution by wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing, and meeting outside where possible.”

British Dental Association chair Eddie Crouch said: “No health professional should be left struggling to manage patient expectations come Monday.

“After all the mixed messages we need government to be crystal clear that face coverings will remain in place to protect the public and staff.”

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