Speaking on the BBC earlier this morning, Dr Nighat Arif said those who refuse to wear masks are “putting lives at risk.”
She said wearing a mask is “the simplest kindness we can perform in our communities.
It comes as Boris Johnson gets set to end compulsory social distancing and mask wearing later today as he lays out the final stages of the roadmap out of Covid-19 restrictions in England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the pandemic is “far from over” and will not be over by July 19, with a potential 50,000 cases detected a day by that date.
He told the Downing Street press conference: “We’re seeing rising hospital admissions and we must reconcile ourselves sadly to more deaths from Covid.
“In these circumstances we must take a careful and a balanced decision. And there’s only one reason why we can contemplate going ahead to step four in circumstances where we’d normally be locking down further, and that’s because of the continuing effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.”
He said the expectation remains that by July 19 every adult in the UK will have had the offer of a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and two-thirds will have had a second dose.
One Royal Society report last summer found that the use of cotton masks was associated with a 54% lower odds of infection in comparison with the no-mask groups, when tested in a healthcare setting.
In another study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists calculated that wearing face coverings prevented more than 78,000 infections in Italy between April 6 and May 9 2020, and more than 66,000 infections in New York City over just a few weeks.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said he thought lifting facemask restrictions was fine, though people who are vulnerable may wish to take extra care.
He said Covid “will never go away”, adding that “our grandchildren’s grandchildren will be getting infected”, though he said it will become more like the common cold over time.
Prof Hunter said he feels OK “with facemask-wearing becoming optional”, adding: “I do think that some people will probably feel less anxious by wearing them and that is OK.
“What I would say is that if you are in a vulnerable group and are going into a crowded indoor environment then it is sensible to still wear one, at least whilst infection rates are high.
“Also, if you are visiting a very vulnerable individual indoors when Covid is common in the community, then I would wear one for their protection, even though I have been fully vaccinated.”
But Dr Laurence Aitchison, from the department of computer science at the University of Bristol, said: “Our research has shown mask-wearing reduces the spread of Covid-19 by around 25% if everyone wears them.
“At a time when mask-wearing is decreasing and mask mandates are being lifted, the findings confirm that masks do indeed have a strong impact on lowering transmission of the virus and remain an important measure in our response against it.
“As people are now used to wearing them, it’s a simple thing everyone can do to continue managing risk while also resuming normal activities.”
Scientific evidence suggests that face coverings worn over the nose and mouth reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking.