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.”
“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.
Ramakrishnan’s comments come as new evidence from the Royal Society points to the benefits of face coverings.
Researchers found that the UK was “trailing behind” other countries in terms of policy implementation and wearing face coverings, with mask wearing in the UK at around 25% in April, compared to 83.4% in Italy, 65.8% in the United States and 63.8% in Spain.
Researchers noted that while other countries, similar to the UK, did not have an “established culture of face mask wearing,” they had clear policies on face coverings.
“People may rightly ask why you have to wear a mask on a train but not in a shop. If guidance is inconsistent people will follow their own preferences,” Ramakrishnan said.
“The message has not been clear enough so perhaps people do not really understand the benefits or are not convinced of them,” he added.
Many health officials around the world are saying we must wear masks if we want to keep the economy open and save tens of thousands of lives.
CNN’s Holly Yan and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.