Shoppers in England must wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets from 24 July or risk facing a fine, the government has announced.
Anyone failing to wear a face-covering could face a fine of up to £100, or £50 if paid within 14 days. The new rules are expected to be announced by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Tuesday afternoon and are due to be enforced by the police, rather than by retail staff.
The announcement by the government follows days of confusion spreading, with politicians giving conflicting statements on the issue. Boris Johnson hinted last week that the government could be about to update its guidance on face coverings, potentially making them mandatory in shops. However, on Sunday, Michael Gove said he didn’t think the wearing of face coverings in shops would be made mandatory.
The wearing of face coverings is already mandatory on public transport in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and in shops in Scotland. There are mixed opinions over the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of face coverings in helping to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, however, Downing Street has said that there is ‘growing evidence’ that face coverings can be useful when worn in enclosed spaces.
Some have expressed concerns that making face coverings mandatory in shops in England will lead to even more people deciding to avoid high streets, with some already choosing to stay away due to restrictions and measures already in place in most stores. Others feel that some people may be more confident to go shopping once the new rules are in place.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said, “We can’t afford to wait another day and the government bring this policy in immediately”.
It is believed that the new rules on face coverings in shops will be the same as those on public transport, meaning that children under 11 and people with particular disabilities will be exempt from the rules.