Coronavirus: Wearing face masks makes no difference to spread of disease, insists UK medical chief
Two men wear face masks in central London.
Wearing face masks in public will do nothing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, a senior medical expert has declared.
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam said there was "no evidence" that it prevented people from catching it.
He spoke out amid mounting calls for the Government to change its official advice to the public on wearing masks.
The White House is also reportedly preparing to tell Americans they should cover their faces to help slow the outbreak.
But speaking at the latest Downing Street press conference, Mr Van Tam said: "I was on the phone this morning to a colleague in Hong Kong whose done the evidence review for the World Health Organisation on face masks.
"We are of the same mind that there is no evidence that the general wearing of face masks by the public who are well affects the spread of the disease in our society.
"Yes it is true that we do see very large amounts of mask-wearing in south-east Asia, but we have always seen that for many decades.
"In terms of the hard evidence, we do not recommend face masks for general wearing for the public."
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock re-iterated Boris Johnson's call for Brits to stay at home this weekend, despite forecasts of warm weather.
He said: "This remains a dangerous time. It remains vitally important that people continue to stay at home and practice the social distancing that we have asked of them - even this weekend as the weather turns warmer.
"This is a serious battle, we need to keep fighting it."
Ruth May, the UK's chief nurse, also urged people to stick to the Government guidelines, pointing to the deaths from coronavirus of two NHS nurses - Areema Nasreen and Aimee O'Rourke.
She said: "This weekend is going to be very warm and it is very tempting to go out and enjoy those summer rays.
"But please I ask you to remember Amiee and Areema. Please stay at home for them."