The two European hotspots making face masks mandatory again as UK urged to follow | World | News


Two European hotspots and several US states have returned to making masks mandatory, in a move that will affect British holidaymakers. But one World Health Organization (WHO) chief has said the UK should adopt the same measure.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has told people to put their face masks back on to fight a resurgence of Covid-19 cases around the world. In a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, the WHO chief urged people to “continue to use masks, ventilation, and distancing to reduce exposures, and make sure you and your loved ones are up to date on your COVID-19 and flu shots”.

Greece and regions of Spain have imposed mandatory mask orders amid a surging rate of cases. Meanwhile, in England, hospital admissions of people with flu or Covid-19 are running at their highest level so far this winter.

In Greece, a popular destination for British tourists, a Covid-19 outbreak in November has yet to peak, according to experts. This has prompted Greek officials to re-impose mask-wearing indoors and social distancing protocols.

Epidemiology professor Demosthenes Sarigiannis said Greece could see daily cases reach almost 9,000 by the end of the month.

The sudden rise in cases has caused stocks of Covid tests to run out in several Greek pharmacies. Meanwhile, Cyprus has made Covid testing and masks mandatory in nursing homes, hospitals, outpatient clinics, dentists, and facilities for vulnerable groups.

In Spain, five regions have reintroduced rules making the use of face masks compulsory in health facilities following a Covid spike over Christmas.

This includes popular tourist destinations such as Valencia, Catalonia, Murcia, Aragon and Galicia. The Spanish health minister has called a meeting of regional health authorities next week, after which the government could impose mandatory rules nationwide.

In the UK, the rise in Covid admissions is expected to pile pressure on NHS hospitals, which are currently facing the longest strike in history by junior doctors, and a jump in other seasonal viruses.

Professor Christina Pagel, of University College London, warned that the UK could see its highest-ever rate of Covid cases, due to a new variant of the virus.

The highly infectious JN.1 sub-variant, which has yet to reach its peak, has become the dominant strain of the virus over Christmas and it now counts for more than half of the UK’s Covid infections.

The WHO expects the upward trend of Covid spread to continue “for some time”.

In the US, healthcare facilities in New York, California, Illinois, and Massachusetts have made masks mandatory among patients and providers.

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