In South Africa, we were initially firmly told *not* to wear masks because all previous pandemic literature didn't advise widespread use. Leading doctors from our hospitals expressed frustration at early mask-wearing, saying that viruses were so small they'd get through the mask fabric (like beach sand thrown through wire netting) and that people continually touching and adjusting them, re-using them without washing, children sharing them, contributed to lack of bacterial hygiene. They also reckoned mask and glove-wearing gave a false sense of security and distracted from the most important factor of all: constant hand washing with soap, multiple times per day and staying at home with symptoms rather than venturing out thinking the mask was protective enough. In any event, this is a southern African perspective of things, which may not gel with UK experiences.
South Africa, I think, took it's cue from Fauci's speech:
Then, a couple of weeks later, all that information turned on a dime and we were told to wear masks. South Africans are fairly disciplined: the masks went on and have stayed on. But many are used repeatedly, without washing: people can't afford disposables. Children and teens swap and lose them continually, so there's a well-meaning effort but it's far from scientifically sealed.
[Mask aside, the pandemic is pretty much over here, very low figures indeed. No vaccines yet but Ivermectin is now in wide use (released from criminal governmental ban after civil society forced the issue in High Court) and seems to be working beautifully against all variants. It's becoming clear why this cheap-as-chips anti-viral therapeutic (released from its Merck patent years ago) won its Japanese inventor a Nobel chem prize ]