Wearing face coverings in shops to be made mandatory in England

Wearing masks ‘basic good manners’ says Gove as country battles local Covid-19 outbreaks

British prime minister Boris Johnson talks to paramedics during a visit to London Ambulance Service. Photograph:  Pippa Fowles

British prime minister Boris Johnson talks to paramedics during a visit to London Ambulance Service. Photograph: Pippa Fowles

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Wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets is to be made mandatory in England in a fresh move to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the UK government has announced.

In a statement on Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock will say anyone failing to comply with the order, which comes into force on July 24th, could face a fine of up to £100.

Earlier, prime minister Boris Johnson urged people to wear face coverings in shops, adding that his government would decide in the coming days whether to make it mandatory. Face coverings are mandatory on public transport in England but up to now not in shops, as they are in Scotland.

“The scientific evaluation of face coverings and their importance on stopping aerosol droplets, that’s been growing, so I do think that in shops it is very important to wear a face covering if you’re going to be in a confined space and you want to protect other people and receive protection in turn. “Yes, face coverings, I think people should be wearing in shops, and in terms of how we do that – whether we will be making that mandatory or not – we will be looking at the guidance, we will be saying a little bit more in the next few days,” the prime minister said during a visit to the London ambulance service.

“As the virus comes down in incidence and we have more and more success, I think face coverings are a kind of extra insurance we can all use to stop it coming back and stop it getting out of control again. To be absolutely clear I do think that face coverings do have a real value in confined spaces and I do think the public understand that.”

Indoor settings

Mr Johnson’s intervention came a day after cabinet office minister Michael Gove said face coverings should not be mandatory in shops but that it was “basic good manners, courtesy and consideration” to do so. The Independent Sage group of scientific experts critical of the government’s response to coronavirus said on Monday that the government should make masks mandatory in public indoor settings.

The group said face coverings should be used alongside other protective measures such as ventilation, hand-washing and social distancing.

“The evidence is increasingly clear that face coverings have an important role in tackling the ongoing epidemic. Alongside any proposed legislation, it is essential that the government undertakes a comprehensive education campaign to ensure the proper use of masks. Crucially, it is essential that masks are not seen as a panacea and other measures such as rigorous hand-washing and social distancing are still stringently followed,” the group’s chairman, David King, said.

Locked-down Leicester

Britain reported 11 deaths from coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily figure since March 12th. But the country continues to battle local outbreaks of the virus and Leicester remains under lockdown as the number of people infected in the city remains disproportionately high.

The city’s mayor, Peter Soulsby, said on Monday that the lockdown had been unnecessary because new data showed that only 10 per cent of Leicester’s neighbourhoods had a higher-than-average transmission rate.

“It’s very clear when you look at the data it’s a couple of areas of the city that have got a higher-than-average transmission of the virus,” he told the BBC.

“Certainly the way the city’s been locked down in its entirety, and even beyond its boundaries, is not justified.”

About 200 people employed to pick crops at a farm in the West Midlands near Malvern are self-isolating after 70 of them tested positive for coronavirus. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases reported daily in Britain has fallen from more than 6,000 in mid-April to fewer than 600 on Monday.