Beards and stubble may be banned by NHS to prevent the spread of coronavirus

Staff who work for the Southampton University NHS Trust have been sent a mass email which told them facial hair "compromises the ability to protect people through a mask" as coronavirus fears worsen.

Medical director Derek Sandeman advised against the wearing of beards and sent a chart of 36 different facial hairstyles.

He said "beards are so popular at the moment", adding: "I think it's the right thing to do."

Full beards, stubble and long stubble are out while a pencil moustache and side-whiskers are acceptable.

After two more cases of coronavirus being confirmed, taking the number to 15, UK health bosses are on red alert for an outbreak as it spreads rapidly across Italy.

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The email states: "You will see that the presence of facial hair compromises the ability to protect any individual through a mask.

"I am writing to ask those who do not have a strong cultural or religious reason for a beard and who are working in at-risk areas to consider shaving.

"I recognise for some this is a big ask, that beards are so popular at present. However I do believe this is the right thing to do."

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Public Health England and NHS England have been contacted to see if the guidance will be issued to hospitals nationally or if it is a matter for individual trusts.

The infographic was originally produced by the US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, stubble and beards "make it impossible to get a good seal of the mask to the face".

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Guidance on its website says: "Many masks rely on a good seal against the face so that when you breathe air in, it is drawn into the filter material where the air is cleaned.

"If there are any gaps around the edges of the mask, 'dirty' air will pass through these gaps and into your lungs."

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