World Mask Week 2021 (12 to 18 July) has launched this week to encourage continued mask wearing in a bid to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The global campaign is supported by the Pandemic Action Network, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the African Union, 3M and over 50 global, regional and local partner organisations.
The campaign is encouraging both individuals and organisations globally to support the continued importance of wearing a mask by sharing a statement on social media with#WorldMaskWeek and tagging others in their posts.
“Last year, with the first World Mask Week, we sparked a global movement in 117 countries to wear masks. This year, as the pandemic persists in much of the world, we’re coming together around the message that [wearing a] mask still matters and to show gratitude for those who have worn a mask and continue to [do so],” said Eloise Todd, co-founder of the Pandemic Action Network.
“In order to end this pandemic for everyone, we must deploy all the tools available around the world to fight COVID-19 – and that includes wearing a mask,” she added.
The launch of World Mask Week 2021 follows the government’s announcement that individuals will no longer be legally required to wear a mask in most places in England from 19 July.
However, the UK’s Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has since suggested that the government is likely to still recommend wearing a mask following the end of the legal obligation.
“The guidelines will be very clear on things like mask wearing. There’s an expectation indoors, in crowded places and on public transport,” said Zahawi.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is also urging the government to include a requirement for the continuation of mask wearing after 19 July in indoor settings.
“While the government has said it will continue to encourage the wearing of face coverings after the 19 [July], within the same breath ministers confirm that masks will not be mandatory. This is contradictory and shows the government absolving itself of responsibility while heaping pressure on the public, confused by mixed messaging of the highest order,” said Chaand Nagpaul, council chair of the BMA.
He added: “Doctors will also be incredibly worried if the requirements around face coverings and social distancing are scrapped for healthcare settings – putting both staff and incredibly ill patients at higher risk – and it’s imperative that an exception is put in place now and communicated to the public.”