A GP has encouraged people to wear face coverings amid a debate over their effectiveness in tackling the spread of coronavirus.

Health chiefs are split over whether the general public should cover their faces with masks.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, shot down suggestions that England and Wales would follow Scotland in urging people to wear them.

But Dr Arabella Onslow, of Dalton’s Market Street Medical Practice, said: “People without symptoms can spread Covid19.

“Breathing and speaking projects virus particles across a two metre distance.

“Sneezing and coughing expel viral particles further and faster, up to eight metres.

“Some viral particles drop and land on surfaces within minutes or others can remain in the air for several hours.

“Providing a barrier over the nose and mouth reduces the speed and turbulence of expelled air, reducing the amount of virus in the environment.

“Any barrier reduces the speed and turbulence. Specialised barriers can prevent particles from passing through.

“Covering your mouth and nose when in any shared or public space reduces the viral load in the environment, if added to existing public health measures in hand washing and social distancing, which should continue to be practised rigorously."

The doctor was part of a community group manufacturing hundreds of homemade face coverings for care homes, schools and the general public.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said cloth coverings should be used in shops and on public transport.

But Mr Hancock, asked whether the recommendation was likely to be adopted across the UK, said that there was ‘weak science’ supporting the advice and urged people to continue to stay at home.