Daily Mail Comment: Britain has had to say no to making masks mandatory

On the surface, new advice from the UK Health Protection Agency to stay at home if you’re feeling unwell and to wear a mask if you must go out in public sounds reasonable.

Even when there is not an NHS crisis, if you are down with a cold or flu, staying away from work, school or crowded places where you are likely to infect others is a sensible and Thoughtful work.

And choosing to wear a face mask can reduce the spread of germs.

But it should be voluntary. We must be wary of starting back down a slippery slope to any outrageous mandatory restrictions tolerated in the lockdown, which had so many devastating social, educational and economic effects.

(File photo)Choosing to wear a face mask can reduce the spread of germs, but it should be voluntary

Yes, this winter’s flu outbreak is serious, but it shouldn’t be used by overzealous authorities to mandate mask-wearing in shops, on public transport or in schools.

During the pandemic, it was part of an unprecedented and drastic response to a global medical emergency. The public then reluctantly tolerated it, but any attempt to make it a regular feature of health policy would be insufficient.

And then there is Covid itself. All indications are that the virus is weakening as it evolves and we are slowly learning to live with it. We must be careful not to press the panic button on every new scare.

If people want to wear masks, that’s fine. It is his choice. But if it was made mandatory, even if only in limited settings, how long would it be before there were calls for a return to social distancing and other restrictions?

It would really be history repeating itself in farce.

sunak mechanic

Rishi Sunak was yesterday said to be ‘underneath the structure’ of the winter health crisis, working on more permanent solutions alongside short-term fixes.

Like a rusty old bang, the NHS has been limping along on a wing and a prayer for years. Some would say it needs a magician rather than a mechanic.

Mr. Sunak won’t be able to completely fix the engine any time soon, but he can at least clean the plugs and points and get it back on the road.

In a keynote address today, he will outline a plan to free up many more beds by providing care packages for some of the 13,000 medically fit elderly patients who are in hospital simply because they have no one else to go to There is no place.

It's good to see Rishi Sunak take charge of the health emergency, but he is by no means the first PM to attempt restoration on the NHS

It’s good to see Rishi Sunak taking charge of the health emergency, but by no means is he the first PM to attempt restoration on the NHS

He is said to be considering giving local pharmacists powers (which already exist in Scotland and Wales) to prescribe medicines for minor ailments.

This will be of great benefit.

A study cited by an all-party group of MPs suggested it could cut GP costs by 50 per cent.

But this will require a fair amount of upfront money. Although cash has been pumped into the NHS in recent years, pay rates for independent pharmacies have not increased since 2015, despite rising inflation and rising drug prices.

As a result, many are struggling to make ends meet and almost one in ten are locked out. The Mail is campaigning to get a better deal for these dedicated community servants. Without it, they will wither on the vine.

It’s good to see Mr Sunak donning his overalls to take charge of a health emergency and we don’t doubt his good faith (after all, his mother was a pharmacist).

But he is not the first PM to attempt restoration on the NHS. Making it fit for purpose is a monumental task that requires not only smart, involved thinking but also radical action.

If it doesn’t come soon, the old jalopy will be beyond repair.

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