Esther McVey clashes with Caroline Flint over face masks
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The legal requirement to wear face masks due to Covid will be lifted in England on so-called Freedom Day – expected on July 19 – although guidance will suggest people might still choose to do so in crowded places. Labour MP Caroline Flint has said she will continue to wear a face-covering in crowded places and on public transport. But Tory MP Esther McVey explained government guidance is not clear on how much protection a mask gives.
Speaking on GB News, she said: “When used correctly wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances.
“It is questionable whether they help.
“The only thing I will say is the mask genie is out of the bottle and I think for 15 months people have been scared witless and I think they will be wearing masks for some time to come.”
Ms Flint continued: “The thin is about taking the risk in these situations. It was a pandemic and let’s compare some figures here.
“The last flu in 2019 of the people who died, 1,200 died from flu or pneumonia.
“When you then look at the figures for people who have died from Covid-19, it is massively different from flu. It is a pandemic and because we’ve had the variant coming in it’s not like being immune to measles and getting a jab for that.”
Ms McVey interjected: “The only thing that’s a false year to compare it with.
“Comparing the flu in 2015 which was a bad year, 50,000 people died from it. The year later about 25,000.”
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It comes as a leading academic said it makes “no sense not to insist on the wearing of masks”.
Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute, said people should be able to enjoy the summer after coronavirus restrictions are lifted but “it doesn’t mean we have to open the door wide open”.
His comments came as Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he will “probably” wear a mask on the London Underground after the legal requirement ends.
And leading medics said masks may still be needed in hospitals, particularly in crowded environments such as A&E.
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Sir Paul told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s not unreasonable for the Government to open the country up more, given the successful vaccine rollout. But it’s not sensible to open up so much so fast when the level of infections is rising so quickly.
“This decision is informed by science but it’s a political decision. And some factors are important, like the economy, but some of this could be achieved by keeping some of the checks in place.
“It makes no sense not to insist on the wearing of masks. We need sensible, well thought-out, good plans.
“Of course we have to make the most of the summer but it doesn’t mean we have to open the door wide open.”
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