COVID: UK's confusing stance on face coverings puts Boris Johnson in line of fire

Boris Johnson is in line of fire after images of him not wearing a face mask at the hospital surfaced, but did he really break any rules?

Boris Johnson at the Hexham General Hospital
© Getty Images
Boris Johnson at the Hexham General Hospital

In the wake of COVID in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was condemned yesterday for reportedly breaching hospital guidelines by not covering his face.

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Earlier in July, the UK observed its ‘freedom day,’ which renounced the rule of wearing masks in 'any setting in public.' While the government has officially advised visitors and staff in healthcare settings to continue wearing a face mask, the PM decided to forgo the suggestion confusing the public about the government's stance on face coverings.

Boris in the line of fire

This week Boris Johnson was captured without his face mask while he was visiting Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland. The photo sparked public outrage, especially given that recent statistics revealed that more than 11,600 people died after catching COVID from an NHS hospital.

This is not the first time the Prime Minister and his government have been chastised for their ambiguous position on face masks.

Earlier this month, the PM was criticised for not wearing a mask when he sat next to Sir David Attenborough, 95, in the environment summit of COP26. But those attending were ‘not required to wear a face mask when they are seated.’ Johnson told CNN he'd been using them in restricted settings with people he didn't 'normally talk to.'

In regards to the recent backlash, Dominic Raab, Johnson’s deputy, defended the PM and told the BBC Breakfast:

The right thing to do in all of those settings is taken the advice that you’ve got, follow the guidance very carefully, and I know that’s what the Prime Minister did.

According to the hospital's guidelines, 'anyone attending our hospitals and community settings must continue to wear a face covering at all times to protect patients, visitors and staff' but Raab tried to clarify the situation by saying:

My understanding is that the Prime Minister followed all the guidance that was given to him from the moment he was at the hospital and obviously in the different settings that he visited, and that’s right.

Freedom day

July 19 observed a so called ‘freedom day’ in the UK, where restrictions were lifted, and the citizens were no longer ‘required’ to wear a face covering, but nevertheless were encouraged to do so.

The freedom day insisted that face masks and coverings were an individual’s ‘personal choice.’

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid emphasised, in last month’s Downing Street press conference, the necessity of wearing ‘face masks in closed spaces,’ to save Christmas.

Rather than striving to restore to the pre-pandemic status quo, we need to develop a new normal that promotes freedom in a world where COVID is still present.

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