Refusing to wear face masks should be as taboo as drunk driving, science chief says

Passengers wearing face masks at Waterloo station in London as face coverings become mandatory on public transport in England with the easing of further lockdown restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

(CNN)Refusing to wear a face mask during the Covid-19 pandemic should be as socially unacceptable as drunk-driving, or driving without using a seat belt, the president of the UK's Royal Society said Tuesday.

Venki Ramakrishnan called for everyone to wear a face covering in public -- particularly in enclosed public spaces -- pointing to new evidence suggesting that coverings may protect both the wearer and those around them.
Ramakrishnan said that people in the UK were "skeptical" about the benefits of using face coverings, and noted that the country was "way behind" other countries when it came to using face coverings, with inconsistent guidance and policies.
    "The public have taken to handwashing and distancing but remain skeptical about face coverings," Ramakrishnan said in a statement.
      "You only need to go on public transport, where they are supposed to be mandatory, to see how many people are ignoring this new rule based on the growing body of evidence that wearing a mask will help protect others -- and might even protect you."
      As per UK government advice for England, face coverings are required on public transport or when visiting hospitals.
      "It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts. Today both of those would be considered antisocial, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way," he added.
        Venki Ramakrishnan said the UK is behind other countries in terms of wearing masks and having clear guidance on face coverings.
        Ramakrishnan's comments come as new evidence from the Royal Society points to the benefits of face coverings.
        The first report -- an updated report from the Royal Society's Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics Initiative (DELVE) -- found that universal use of masks could prevent virus transmission, and also pointed to new evidence that suggested that face coverings could provide protection to the wearer.