A group of British scientists have sparked fresh debate after calling for masks to be mandatory for joggers amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Trish Greenhalgh, a professor in primary care health sciences at the University of Oxford, told breakfast television show Good Morning Britain that there is a "danger" of transmitting coronavirus when breathing heavily while jogging past pedestrians.
"There is no doubt the virus is in the air, there is no doubt that you can catch it if you inhale and that someone has exhaled," the health expert said.
"The exercising jogger – the puffing and panting jogger – you can feel their breath come and you can sometimes actually feel yourself inhale it, so there’s no doubt that there is a danger there."
With England in its third lockdown and gyms shut, millions of people hoping to keep a healthy exercise regime have taken up jogging.
Devi Sridhar, a professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh and also a guest on the panel, echoed Greehalgh’s concerns. She encouraged runners to use face masks in busy areas, and said they could be removed in less-populated areas.
"If you’re out in a park then take off your mask and run freely. I think we need some consideration for each other," she said.
But Jake Dunning, a scientist at Public Health England, accused the group of "whipping up hysteria", tweeting "it’s totally disproportionate to any reasonable estimate of risk".
He added: "Stop whipping up hysteria and anxieties. Stop singling out outdoor runners for no good scientific reason and instead focus on avoiding the actual high-risk, indoor scenarios for transmission."
According to current UK government guidelines, face masks are only a requirement in some indoor settings such as on public transport, shops and supermarkets to help reduce the spread of virus droplets.
Wearing masks while exercising outdoors is not a requirement.