There are no plans to make wearing a mask in the office mandatory in England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
Mr Hancock said that people working in offices will not need to cover up, just 24 hours after the government confirmed that it would be mandatory to wear a mask in shops from next week.
Asked about a report in the Telegraph which said it was being considered, Mr Hancock said: “It is something we’ve looked at and rejected,” he said, but added masks would be worn elsewhere by the public “for the foreseeable future”.
There is a difference between visiting a shop for a few minutes and working alongside colleagues at a desk for several hours, he said.
“When you’re in close proximity with somebody that you have to work closely to, if you’re there for a long time with them, then a mask doesn’t offer that protection.
“The same logic applies for schools – we’re not recommending masks for schools because if you’re in a classroom with kids all day then a mask doesn’t give you protection.”
Mr Hancock said face coverings were effective “in a shop or public transport, for instance, when you’re with somebody for a reasonable amount of time – a few minutes – but not all day.”
“The point is when you’re in interaction with people who you aren’t normally with, that’s where the mask may be particularly helpful.”
He added: “We are not proposing to extend masks to offices.”
Mr Hancock added that face coverings will have to be worn “for the foreseeable future”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “People will have to wear masks in shops and on public transport and in the NHS for the foreseeable future.
“The virus exists only to multiply and without any measures we know that each person infects another two to three people so we do have to have these measures in place, even though the number of cases are really low, to keep a grip on the virus.”