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Britain will build stockpile of masks to make shopping safe

Britain is to build a stockpile of masks for people to wear while shopping and on public transport, it was announced yesterday.

Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, revealed the move after Nicola Sturgeon pre-empted what is expected to be UK-wide guidance.

The Scottish first minister confirmed that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had concluded that covering the face with a scarf or other cloth mask would probably help to slow transmission in confined spaces as she recommended that people wear them “as a precautionary measure”.

Ms Sturgeon said face coverings were “not a substitute” for social distancing and hygiene measures but guidance issued by the Scottish government advises that they “may provide some level of protection against transmission to other people in close proximity” where keeping two metres apart is difficult.

Ministers are expected to announce their decision within days. It is thought that simple masks, which could be as basic as textile face coverings, are to be stockpiled.