A thousand health professionals have backed an appeal for hospital staff to be given improved personal protective equipment.
In an open letter to UK political leaders, they say there is growing evidence that tiny coronavirus particles can spread through the air.
The group want general ward staff to be given the type of high-quality masks usually only worn in intensive care.
Nurses’ leaders said higher level PPE should be provided as a “precaution”.
Public Health England (PHE) has issued guidance on what PPE staff in different settings require. It was last updated in October 2020 .
Early in the pandemic, it was widely believed that to catch the disease you had to either be close to an infected person and hit by droplets from their coughs or sneezes or touch a surface they had contaminated.
But research during the course of last year highlighted how it is also possible for the virus to be carried in what are called aerosols, drifting and accumulating in the air.
Most infections are thought to have occurred indoors in badly ventilated rooms, and many studies have shown that the ‘airborne route’ can be an important factor.
Across the UK, the guidance for hospital staff is to wear surgical masks in most areas.