It’s emerged experts demanded guidance that forces hairdressers and barbers to wear a visor be extended, to include face coverings like a mask too.
In a meeting on July 22, the experts ruled visors alone “are unlikely to be an effective control for aerosol transmission”.
The subgroup of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) added: “There is no evidence that face shields/visors are an effective source control for either larger droplets or small aerosols.
“We recommend that guidance for UK hairdressers and barbers should be strengthened to include wearing of face coverings.”
Government guidance for hairdressers and barbers in England says they “must” wear a visor or face shield to protect their customers.
But it does not order them to wear a cloth face covering which fits more tightly over nose and mouth.
The guidance to hairdressers was updated on July 23, the day after the meeting of SAGE’s Environment and Modelling Group.
However, while the update tightened up the language on face coverings, it stopped short of making them mandatory like visors are.
Instead the guidance still says face coverings “are not an alternative for employees who wear a visor”.
Professor Peter Openshaw, who sits on the separate SAGE sub-group NERVTAG, indicated the updated guidance did not go far enough.
Stressing he was giving a personal opinion, he told the Mirror: “I can understand why it’s more convenient to wear a visor, but really what is a visor going to do?”
He added: “I think it’s absolutely clear that wearing a face visor is going to direct the expelled air and droplets.. in a downward direction.
“If you were, for example, a hairdresser and you’re working on somebody’s hair and wearing a visor that would not really in any way be likely to afford protection.”
The original guidance to hairdressers, when they opened on July 4, said wearing a face covering may only be “marginally beneficial”, and the evidence it would protect customers “is weak and the effect is likely to be small”.
Those phrases were removed on July 23, the day after the experts’ meeting, and replaced with the words: “There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from COVID-19.
“However, face coverings are not an alternative for employees who wear a visor in close contact services.”
The scientists made their recommendation after a US study found two COVID-19 infected hairdressers, who wore face coverings, did not pass on the disease to 139 clients.
Despite the meeting and the tweaked guidance, there was no major announcement about a change to the rules in barber shops and hairdressers in England.
Staff are still only advised they can wear a face overing, rather than being told they must. By comparison, visors are compulsory.
A Government spokesperson said: “The current guidance says the person providing close contact services, such as a hairdresser, should wear a clear visor. However, we continue to keep these measures under review.”