Covid testing expert calls for return to compulsory face masks


Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory is recommending compulsory wearing of face masks should be reintroduced and access to free tests improved.
Dr Fivelman made his remarks as Steve Barclay became the fourth Health Secretary in five years. This turnover at the top is, he said, a distraction from the Covid crisis, which is currently seeing the latest Omicron variants rising at an alarming rate.
“The revolving door that has seen four Health Secretaries in five years must stop,” he says. “Britain is facing vital decisions about how to end the Covid pandemic and the continual chop-and-change at the top of the Department of Health and Social Care is a dangerous distraction.
“The turmoil of politics must be put aside as the new Health Secretary faces some urgent decisions. The latest Omicron variants are rapidly running away with us. The new man in the hot seat, Steve Barclay, must quickly reintroduce the compulsory wearing of face masks on public transport and in shops. He must also provide free Covid tests to those at high risk or in regular contact with people with compromised immune systems.”
Dr Fivelman also urged the new Health Secretary to build on the legacy of his predecessors to ensure Britain remains at the forefront of immunisations, explaining that the existing vaccination is less effective against the latest strain of Omicron due to the rapid evolution of the virus.
“Steve Barclay needs to get on top of his new brief quickly. Before Brits start to get together in large numbers to enjoy their summer holidays, the decision must be taken to reintroduce compulsory mask-wearing in indoor public places such as stores and on public transport. Omicron BA.5 is growing 35.1% faster than even Omicron BA.2 The new man at the top hasn’t got the luxury of getting to know his job before he acts.
“Although Omicron symptoms appear to be no more severe than earlier variants, we are seeing a rise in hospital admissions in line with fast-spreading community infections. If the brakes aren’t applied now, that may well put severe pressure on our health system by August.
“The lack of access to free tests could also hinder our understanding of how many cases of Covid are circulating in the population. In addition, many people may not be aware that they have contracted Covid, or be unwilling to pay for confirmatory tests. This could result in it being spread unknowingly, putting many at risk of hospitalisation or long Covid.”
Both Pfizer and Moderna have been testing retooled versions of their vaccines to include the Omicron variant. Dr Fivelman argues it should be a priority to purchase new vaccines as soon as they become available, and to introduce a new booster programme for the entire UK population, particularly those aged over 50.​

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