Mandatory face masks may need to return amid new variant concerns says MP

MP Dan Poulter 

MP Dr Dan Poulter has suggested a new Covid-19 variant may lead to restrictions being brought back. - Credit: Dan Poulter/Archant

Face masks and other restrictions may need to be reintroduced says Central Suffolk & North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant with a high number of mutations.

The new variant, b11.529, was first identified in South Africa and has had 30 different mutations identified already, which potentially could make it more transmissible, deadly or the vaccines less effective.

South Africa has already been added to England’s travel red list to help slow the spread, but Dr Dan Poulter believes this measure will only delay the spread not prevent it.

The MP said: "The vaccine roll out has been a great success but as the virus mutates and new variants emerge, we need to be cautious. 

“It’s right that we have already restricted entry to the UK from South Africa and other countries where the new variant has been detected. However, this will only slow the virus down and not stop it from spreading across borders.

"So we need to be vigilant and recognise that some restrictions such as mandatory wearing of face masks may need to return in the future.”

The UK health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs that the new variant was "huge international concern".

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Though Mr Javid thanked the South African government for their "rigorous scientific response" and the "openness and transparency" of their actions in relation to the new Covid strain.

He said the government is concerned the new variant could pose a "substantial risk" to UK public health - due to the large number of mutations.

Mr Javid said: "One of the lessons of this pandemic has been that we must move quickly, and at the earliest possible moment.

"We're heading into winter and our booster programme is still ongoing, so we must act with caution."

The World Health Organization (WHO) have held a special meeting to consider the significance of the rapidly spreading new variant in South Africa.

The WHO says it will issue new guidance after the talks, but has said it could take weeks to establish how transmissible the variant is - and whether vaccines remain effective against it.