Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked three times to put on a face mask for his visit to Hexham General Hospital, it turned out.
An argument broke out after Mr Johnson was accused of “walking irresponsibly” around the site without his face covering.
The Prime Minister visited Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland on Monday to underpin the government’s message to encourage more vulnerable and elderly people to get a Covid booster vaccination.
During the visit, pictures showed him walking around the hospital without a face covering – while wearing a mask at other times.
Photos of him without a mask show Mr. Johnson poking his elbows and greeting nurses wearing disposable face covers.
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The mirror reported Mr Johnson was said three times before putting on his mask.
Sources told the newspaper that prior to his visit, the heads of Hexham General Hospital first emailed Mr. Johnson’s team to inform him that masks must be worn in all areas.
They reminded him when he arrived – which made it the second prompt to wear face covering – but he took off his mask as he walked down a corridor.
He was asked to put it back on – the hospital’s third request – and complied.
The Labor shadow health secretary linked the maskless pictures to Mr Johnson’s decision not to return from the visit in time to participate in a Commons debate on parliamentary standards.
Jonathan Ashworth said on Twitter: “So Boris Johnson is not just too cowardly to appear in parliament defending the shabby corrupt government tricks of the past few days.
“He’s parading irresponsibly through a hospital without a mask. Patients and NHS staff deserve better.”
The Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which manages Hexham General, said on social media, “Please rest assured that infection prevention and control remains a top priority for our trust.
“Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed strict procedures in every clinical area he visited, including wearing a mask.”
Guidelines published on the Trust’s website recommend that visitors wash their hands at the hospital entrance and “wear a face covering when entering the hospital until leaving”.
Asked by reporters if Mr Johnson broke the rules, the prime minister’s official spokesman said, “During a hospital visit, we always make sure that we adhere to the set rules.
“He will have obeyed the rules in force.”
It is the second time in the past eight days that No. 10 has had to ask questions about Mr. Johnson’s mask wearing habits.
Last week, his official spokesman was asked why the leader of the Conservative Party did not cover his mouth and nose at the UN climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow next to the renowned natural historian and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who is 95 years old.
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Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said Mr. Johnson followed “all protocols and procedures” while on the hospital grounds.
During an interview with BBC Breakfast, Mr Raab said, “I know the Prime Minister took advice about the clinical setting he was in and followed all of the protocols and procedures that were in place, and everyone should do that.”
When asked specifically about the guidelines and whether this meant that Mr. Johnson was not following the rules, Mr. Raab said, “No, precisely because, as you said, he was wearing a mask in the environments where it was required.”
ITV Good Morning Britain Contributor Dr. However, Hilary Jones said it was “ridiculous” that the Prime Minister did not set an example.
“He should have been wearing a mask. He should have set a good example, especially in a hospital when today’s headlines are screaming 11,000 people who caught Covid in a hospital.
“It is ridiculous. Nobody had the courage to say, ‘Prime Minister, put on a mask or you can’t come in.’ That should have happened. “
Dr. David Navarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy for Covid-19, told Sky News: “I’m not sitting on the fence here – where large amounts of viruses are transmitted, everyone should do everything possible to avoid either getting the virus or getting it accidentally passed on.
“We know that wearing a face mask reduces the risk, we know that keeping physical distance reduces the risk, we know that hygiene through regular hand washing and coughing in the elbows reduces the risk.
“We should do everything and we shouldn’t rely on an intervention like vaccination alone.
“So, please, any leader would wear face masks, especially if they were indoors.
“This virus is unforgiving and we must do everything we can to prevent it from getting between us and infecting us.”
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A spokesman for No. 10 said: “The Prime Minister has followed the Covid measures taken throughout his visit, including wearing a mask in all clinical areas. He also did a PCR test before the visit.
“The Hospital Trust has issued a statement clarifying that the Prime Minister has followed its guidelines.”
The heads of the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust responded to a public question why Mr Johnson was not wearing a mask.
They said: “In response to your announcement of the coverage you saw of the depicted prime minister without a face mask at Hexham General Hospital, the Trust would like to assure you that infection prevention and control has always been and remains the highest priority at all our hospitals and all other trust sites.
“Our rules for wearing masks are very clear, and it is important to note that everyone who visits on Monday the 8th
“Information was included in the written program.
“These rules contain information about wearing masks and other measures to prevent and control infection, such as washing hands, stowing away loose clothing (ties) and rolling up sleeves.
“After leaving a welcome meeting, the Prime Minister walked down a mezzanine corridor without a mask for a very short time. This brief moment was captured on camera.
“As soon as this was realized he was given a mask and he put it on.
“The Prime Minister wore a mask for most of the visit.
“He didn’t have a mask on when he conducted his media interviews, but this was agreed with everyone else in the room who wore a mask.
“We ask everyone who visits our hospital locations to continue to adhere to our infection control and prevention rules.
“We hope this clears up the situation and we apologize for the excitement it has caused.”
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