Scientists and politicians are discussing whether people in the UK should be wearing face masks to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
Discussions are reported to be ongoing between the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and ministers today (Thursday) on the benefits of masks in limiting the spread of the infection.
The government previously said there is no scientific evidence supporting the theory that people wearing masks will help limit the spread of the virus.
It is understood that new guidance will ask people to use scarves, or make homemade masks out of old t-shirts or bedding, where social distancing is not possible, such as on public transport.
But it will warn against the use of surgical medical masks – as it could leave the NHS with further shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, speaking at his weekly briefing on the region’s response to COVID-19, said he was aware of talks between SAGE and the government.
“Once we do get back towards people using public transport in bigger numbers, it might be hard to have the very strict distance between people on tram or buses,” he said.
“I understand why people are starting to talk about encouraging people to put some kind of face covering on.
“As I understand, it doesn’t have to be to the health service standard, even a simple covering would offer a degree of protection, and that’s an issue we’re going to have to look at.
Mr Burnham added: “We are aware that experts are advising ministers and there’s going to be a recommendation on this soon.
“I think it’s an assumption that has growing salience that we might recommend to people that they take steps to minimise the risk of passing the infection onto others.”
The government’s previous stance on the merit of the widespread wearing of masks had been informed by the views of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Public Health England.