Hairdressers could be passing on coronavirus to their clients as there are fears their plastic face visors are ‘inadequate’, experts have warned.
Scientists have raised concerns that the plastic face shields worn by barbers and hairdressers might not be providing suitable protection against coronavirus.
They fear that the significant gap could still allow virus-laden droplets to enter the mouth, The Sun reported.
Ministers have warned that the visors worn by hairdressers and barbers (pictured) may be ‘inadequate’ and not provide suitable protection against coronavirus
Ministers are facing calls from scientists to make it compulsory for staff at barbers and hairdressers to wear face coverings or masks, either with or without a visor.
Scientists raised these concerns during Friday’s meeting of The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag).
They also voiced their fears about personal protective equipment at a recent sub-committee meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), the Daily Telegraph reported.
NHS staff and healthcare workers do not use visors without also wearing face mask, which covers the nose and mouth.
Medical microbiology Professor Mark Wilcox, who attends Sage and two of its sub-committees, said: ‘I don’t think the guidance is correct and I don’t understand why visors were chosen in preference to masks.
‘We have, in several settings, discussed the issue of masks versus visors and I think it would be fair to say that I am not alone in these views. My colleagues both in those settings and in other settings share my views.
‘I’ve not come across somebody who has said that visors are the best thing.’
Scientists fear that the significant gap between the visor (above) and the person’s face could still allow virus-laden droplets to enter the mouth
Dr Ben Killingley, a consultant in infectious diseases who sits on Nervtag, said: ‘A visor is primarily worn to protect workers from splashes. It does the same job as goggles, protecting the eyes. No healthcare worker would ever wear a visor without a mask.
‘You would have thought for their own protection and just in case they have been infected themselves, they should be wearing a mask themselves.’
The NHBF, the trade body for hairdressers, beauty salons and barbers, writes on its website that face coverings should not be worn instead of a visor.
The NHBF, who rely on Government guidance for advice about PPE, said: ‘Clients may wear face coverings if they wish and staff can wear a face covering in addition to a visor, but not instead of one.’
This comes after Swiss health officials also condemned face shields worn by hairdressers last week.
Swiss officials investigated an outbreak of ‘several’ coronavirus cases that occurred at a hotel in a village in the Alps — even though employers took precautions.
In the UK, it is not currently a compulsory requirement for hairdressers or barbers to wear additional personal protective equipment other than a visor
A study revealed that only those who wore plastic visors were infected. But no-one who wore a mask, either alone or in addition to a face shield, caught the virus.
The hotel outbreak occurred in the village of Pontresina, Graübunden region, where several employees and at least one guest tested positive for coronavirus.
Local health officials determined that all those infected had been relying solely on a face shield to protect themselves.
The Federal Office of Public Health, the Swiss government’s health agency, said: ‘Visors are no substitute for a face mask.
‘They protect the eyes from possible infection through droplets, but the possibility of infection via the nose or mouth cannot be excluded.’
But in the UK, it is not required for hairdressers to wear additional protection other than a visor.
The Department of Health said: ‘There is no requirement for the client to wear any additional protection such as a mask or face covering, when the practitioner is wearing a visor.’
Ministers are facing calls from scientists to require staff at barbers and hairdressers to use a face covering or mask (pictured) when wearing a visor
A Government spokesman said: ‘Advice for hairdressers remains unchanged and is that they should continue to wear visors.’
But Boris Johnson has extended the compulsory wearing of face masks to most indoor public spaces, including museums in places of worship.
This was part of the Prime Minister’s announcement on July 31, when he said he was ‘squeezing the brake pedal’ on lifting coronavirus restrictions further.
He said the scheduled August 1 return of casinos, bowling alleys and close contact services like beauticians has been pushed back to August 15 ‘at the earliest’.
Loosening rules to allow wedding receptions of up to 30 people and a pilot scheme of bringing crowds back to sports venues were also delayed.
After the infection rate doubled in July, ministers and scientists are increasingly weary of a second onslaught of the virus, which is seeing a resurgence in several other countries.
Further lockdown restrictions have also been imposed across the North West, as people have been banned from gathering in other people’s homes or gardens due to coronavirus fears.