Users of the video conferencing platform Zoom reported outages on Sunday, with many unable to host or join meetings.

The website DownDetector said thousands of people were having issues with the service, and the UK appeared to have been particularly badly affected. Users began reporting issues with the app from 9am BST.

The World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on face masks has remained consistent during the coronavirus pandemic. It has stuck to the line that masks are for healthcare workers – not the public. 

“Wearing a medical mask is one of the prevention measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including Covid-19. However, the use of a mask alone is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection, and other measures should also be adopted,” the WHO has stated.

Nevertheless, as some countries have eased lockdown conditions, they have been making it mandatory to wear face coverings outside, as a way of trying to inhibit spread of the virus. This is in the belief that the face covering will prevent people who cough and sneeze ejecting the virus any great distance. 

There is no robust scientific evidence – in the form of trials – that ordinary masks block the virus from infecting people who wear them. There is also concerns the public will not understand how to use a mask properly, and may get infected if they come into contact with the virus when they take it off and then touch their faces.

Also underlying the WHO’s concerns is the shortage of high-quality protective masks for frontline healthcare workers.

Nevertheless, masks do have a role when used by people who are already infected. It is accepted that they can block transmission to other people. Given that many people with Covid-19 do not show any symptoms for the first days after they are infected, masks clearly have a potential role to play, especially on crowded public transport as people return to work..

 Sarah Boseley Health editor

The platform’s technical issues affected Downing Street’s daily coronavirus briefing. Journalists are usually able to ask questions live on screen, but technical issues meant they had to submit written questions to be read out by the business secretary, Alok Sharma, who was hosting the briefing.

Zoom said later that the issues should be resolved if users restart their sessions.

“Zoom users impacted by this issue should now be able to host, join & participate in Zoom Meetings & Zoom Video Webinars if they restart their sessions. We continue to assess & monitor. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused,” the company tweeted.

The outages also interrupted churches’ Sunday services in the UK and the US. “Imagine if door locks in churches across the country jammed simultaneously on a Sunday morning,” Rev Simon Harvey, a vicar based in Bury St Edmonds, wrote on Twitter.

The video conferencing service’s popularity has grown rapidly since lockdowns began worldwide and people use it to not only host business meetings but also social events, including calls with family and friends and, in the UK, pub quizzes.

In an indication of just how vital the platform has become to people’s daily lives since lockdown, one social media user tweeted: “Zoom is down. The apocalypse is well and truly here.”

However, issues have been raised with the platform’s lax security, highlighted by “Zoombombing” incidents where trolls enter meetings uninvited.

The company’s share price has surged since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in January.


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