Shoppers in England will have to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets from July 24 to help reduce the risk of a new pick-up in the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said.
Johnson said last week that tighter rules on wearing face coverings might be needed but a senior minister – Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove – said on Sunday that wearing masks should be left instead to people’s common sense.
“The Prime Minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops and we will make this mandatory from July 24,” said a statement from Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office.
“There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus,” it added.
Face masks have been mandatory on public transport in England since June 15, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock will formally extend that to shops and supermarkets on Tuesday, said Downing Street.
In Scotland, which has its own powers over public health, it is already compulsory to wear face coverings inside shops.
Those who fail to wear a mask face a fine of up to £100 – in line with existing fines for people who do not cover their face on public transport – with enforcement to be carried out by the police.
Commenting, James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “It’s disappointing that this advice has been leaked and suggested over a few days, causing confusion among consumers and retailers, rather than through a clear briefing with formal guidance.
“We are pleased that the legal responsibility for enforcing this policy will rest with the police rather than shopworkers, but in reality it will be retailers and their colleagues trying to communicate and explain this to people with different views and approaches to complying with this policy.”
ACS has made a poster for retailers and guidance for people working in shops on the topic, Lowman added.
Britain has Europe’s highest coronavirus death toll, with almost 45,000 confirmed deaths.