Venki Ramakrishnan, head of the Royal Society, called today (7 July) for everyone to be required to wear a mask in all indoor public settings, which would be in line with guidance published last month by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

Ramakrishnan said: “Wearing a mask did not bother our Italian, French or Spanish neighbours; none of whom were used to wearing one before the pandemic, yet now do so routinely. So just treat it as another item of clothing that is part of the new normal and wear it whenever you cannot socially distance safely. It is the right thing to do, and a small price to pay, to help keep infections down and the economy open in the pandemic.”

“It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts. Today both of those would be considered antisocial, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way. If all of us wear one, we protect each other and thereby ourselves, reducing transmission. We lower the chances of future surges and lockdowns which are economically and psychologically disruptive, and we increase the chance of eliminating the virus. Not doing so increases the risk for everyone, from NHS workers to your grandmother.”

Ramakrishnan went on to criticise the government’s messaging around facemasks: “the message has not been clear enough, so perhaps people do not really understand the benefits or are not convinced of them. Whatever the reasons, we need to overcome our reservations and wear face coverings whenever we are around others in public.”

The interview was published as new data emerged showing the UK lagging far behind other countries in the wearing of masks: 25% compared to more than 80% in Italy and over 60% in the US and Spain (source: Royal Society) Another report published by the Royal Society’s ‘DELVE’ initiative, updating their earlier work here, presents mounting evidence for the effectiveness of wearing face coverings in reducing the risk of transmission and presents new evidence suggesting that face coverings could also provide protection to the wearer.