Cases of coronavirus are continuing to grow around the world, and countries are amping up efforts to contain the spread. The UK has extended its lockdown for a further three weeks as the virus continues to spread.
In total as of Saturday evening, infections globally totalled 2,271,322 people and 158,779 have died.
Now in the UK, lockdown measures have been extended for a further three weeks.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from the illness, said: “Any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus.”
He added relaxing rules could cause a “second peak” which would risk increasing deaths “substantially”.
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Ministers agreed the need to prolong social distancing measures following meetings of the Cabinet and the Government’s emergency committee Cobra, amid signs the epidemic in the UK is beginning to peak.
Confirming an extension of the measures for at least three weeks, he said: “Earlier today I chaired meetings of the Cabinet and Cobra to consider the advice from Sage on the impact of the existing social distancing measures.
“There are indications that the measures we have put in place have been successful in slowing down the spread of this virus. But Sage also say that is a mixed and inconsistent picture and, in some settings, infections are still likely to be increasing.”
The rate of infection – the R0 value – was “almost certainly below one in the community”, meaning infected people were passing the disease on to fewer than one other person on average.
“But overall we still don’t have the infection rate down as far as we need to,” he told the daily Downing Street news conference.
But just how effective are face masks? Do N95 respirator masks protect you from virus?
Around towns, cities and on public transport the sight of someone wearing a surgical mask is becoming more frequent as coronavirus spreads.
However, if you wear a regular surgical mask, you are not protected from the virus as some may believe.
To protect against coronavirus, a specialised mask – an N95 respirator – can be effective.
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Coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCov requires the thicker respirator mask to help prevent spread.
However, Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told Live Science he does not recommend an N95 respirator for public use.
This is due to the difficulty wearers can face putting the masks on and wearing them for long periods of time.
In fact, specialists are trained in how to properly wear the respirator in order to fit them around the nose, cheeks and chin so that wearers don’t breathe around the edges of the mask.
Dr Schaffner said of breathing through the edges: “When you do that, it turns out that the work of breathing since you’re going through a very thick material, is harder.
“You have to work to breathe in and out. It’s a bit claustrophobic. It can get moist and hot in there.”
Dr Schaffner added: “I know that I can wear them when I need to for about a half-hour.
“But then I have to go out of the isolation room, take it off and take some deep breaths, kind of cool off before I can go back in.”
Do regular surgical masks work?
According to Dr Schaffner, surgical masks don’t do much good in the protection against a virus.
Often they are seen in public in Asian countries to protect against pollution and some illnesses, but you will not be protected from coronavirus wearing a regular surgical mask.
Dr Schaffner said: “They’re not designed to keep out viral particles, and they’re not nearly as tightly fitted around your nose and cheeks.”
The impact of these masks could be “of some use” but the infectious disease specialist advises “the effect is likely to be modest”.
Now, NHS Staff have been asked to shave their beards in order to allow masks to fit them better.
Medical director Derek Sandeman told colleagues: “I am writing to ask those who do not have a strong cultural or religious reason for a beard and who are working in at-risk areas to consider shaving.
“I recognise for some this is a big ask, that beards are so popular at present. However I do believe this is the right thing to do.”
What are the lockdown restrictions in the UK?
Across the UK lockdown conditions are in place, and have been already for four weeks.
This means Britons can only leave home for essential reasons, such as buying urgent groceries, for one portion of exercise per day or to attend key jobs.
In Saturday’s conference
Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick urged councils to keep parks open after some closed their gates in recent weeks.
He also announced funerals can take place with close family members present.
Mr Jenrick pointed to the death of 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, from Brixton in south London, who died after contracting COVID-19 on March 30.
He said the tragedy was compounded after Ismail’s family were not able to attend his funeral four days later because they were self isolating after two of his six siblings had displayed mild symptoms.
Mr Jenrick said: “That is not right and it shouldn’t have happened.
“For clarity, funerals can go ahead with close family present.
“Social distancing measures must be respected, but families must have the opportunity to say a respectful goodbye to those that they love.”
He also said he had “made it clear” to councils that all parks must remain open after some closed their gates in recent weeks.
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