No.10 insists public should wear masks in crowded indoor areas despite maskless Tory front bench

·Freelance Writer
·2-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate on the situation in Afghanistan in the House of Commons, London, as MPs returned to Parliament from their summer break for an emergency sitting on Wednesday, three days after the country's capital Kabul fell to the militants on Sunday. Picture date: Wednesday August 18, 2021. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Many Tory MPs – and the entire government front bench – were not wearing face masks in Parliament. (Getty)

The government has insisted people continue to follow advice to wear masks indoors despite ministers not wearing them in Parliament today.

Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle criticised the Tory front bench, who sat shoulder-to-shoulder in a packed House of Commons as MPs were recalled to debate the situation in Afghanistan.

Pictures from inside the chamber showed many Conservative MPs sitting without a face covering, while opposition benches appeared to have most members wearing them.

Criticising the lack of face masks, Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle tweeted: “Not a single member of the Govt front bench wearing a mask from PM & Health Secretary on down #HoC Almost no other Tory either.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate on the situation in Afghanistan in the House of Commons, London, as MPs returned to Parliament from their summer break for an emergency sitting on Wednesday, three days after the country's capital Kabul fell to the militants on Sunday. Picture date: Wednesday August 18, 2021.
No members of the Tory front bench wore face masks. (PA)

Since 19 July face coverings have not been mandatory in England, but government guidance says they are recommended in crowded and enclosed spaces and urges people to “use your judgement”.

But despite ministers not wearing them in Parliament today, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the advice “still remains” that face coverings should be worn in indoor crowded spaces.

Watch: House of Commons back to full capacity to discuss Afghanistan

However, he added: “The arrangements for the House are a matter for the parliamentary authorities, as you know masks are not a mandatory requirement.”

A public health expert has weighed in on the criticism and suggested it would be “good practice” for politicians to wear masks in Parliament when they are not speaking.

Edinburgh University professor of public health Linda Bauld said: “The virus is airborne, we currently have slightly rising numbers of cases, so it is a protective measure that they can take and I’m sure everyone in public health would agree when indoors we should do that where possible.

“It is important that people who are in positions of authority lead by example, and that’s been a bit of an issue throughout the pandemic in a whole variety of respects but continues to be the case.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate on the situation in Afghanistan in the House of Commons, London, as MPs returned to Parliament from their summer break for an emergency sitting on Wednesday, three days after the country's capital Kabul fell to the militants on Sunday. Picture date: Wednesday August 18, 2021.
Most Tory MPs did not wear masks on their return to the Commons on Wednesday. (PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the debate on the situation in Afghanistan in the House of Commons, London, as MPs returned to Parliament from their summer break for an emergency sitting on Wednesday, three days after the country's capital Kabul fell to the militants on Sunday. Picture date: Wednesday August 18, 2021.
Most MPs on opposition benches were wearing masks during the debate. (PA)

“If public figures are wearing them indoors, that will encourage others to do that in working environments even if it’s advisory.

“When you’re in a crowded indoor environment and distancing, as in two metres, is not possible, then a face covering does provide additional protection.

“And I think if members of the public are seeing a crowded indoor environment, where those mitigations are not being used when they’re available, that’s not best practice and it may send a message in relation to other environments that people are accessing.”

Watch: Jacob Rees-Mogg defends decision not to wear face masks in the Commons

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