LONDON: Britain is unlikely to follow France in ordering people to wear face coverings at work because its test and trace scheme shows most people catch COVID-19 in house-to-house transmission, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday (Aug 19).
"We are not currently considering doing that," he told BBC TV, when asked if Britain would impose masks at workplaces as in France.
"The reason is that the evidence from NHS Test and Trace for where people catch the disease is that, very largely, they catch it from one household meeting another household, usually in one of their homes," he said.
"The amount of people who have caught it in workplaces is relatively low we think from the evidence that we have got."
The British government also said on Wednesday that it plans to bring in regular, population-wide testing for COVID-19 so it can suppress the spread of the virus and limit restrictions that have crippled one of the worst hit countries in the world.
Hancock said the government was trialing a range of new, faster tests that can give instant results and hoped to roll them out towards the end of the year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has been heavily criticised for its handling of the pandemic, with critics saying it was too slow to go into lockdown and too slow to roll out testing to know how far the virus had spread.
It now has the highest death toll in Europe and the deepest economic contraction of a major advanced economy.
"The mass testing, population testing, where we make it the norm that people get tested regularly, allowing us therefore to allow some of the freedoms back, is a huge project in government right now," Hancock told BBC Radio.
He said the country's research laboratories at Porton Down were trialing new saliva tests that do not need to go to a laboratory, so they can deliver faster results.
"There are new technologies coming on track which we are buying and testing now," he said. "We'll ramp it up certainly over the remainder of this year."
The government says it currently has a testing capacity of more than 335,000. Cases in Britain have started to rise again in recent weeks with more than 1,000 positive results on eight of the last 10 days.
The government also said on Wednesday it would expand a testing study being run by the Office for National Statistics from 28,000 people now to 150,000 by October and ultimately to 400,000 to help establish a better national picture of the pandemic and spot local outbreaks.