Ministers have been accused of delivering mixed messages on the mask issue and follows the lead of around 120 countries, including Scotland
Boris Johnson has announced that a mask or other kinds of face coverings must be worn inside shops and supermarkets throughout England from Friday the 24th of July.
Enforcement of these new rules will be carried out by the police and not retail staff and other store workers, and anyone failing to wear a face covering when they are shopping will receive a fine of up to £100 or a £50 fine if it’s paid within two weeks.
The rules to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will be the same as those currently applicable for public transport across England, meaning that children under the age of 11, as well as people with certain disabilities, will be exempt from the changes.
This comes after the UK Culture Secretary confirmed that gyms, indoor pools and leisure centres, as well as beauty salons, tanning shops and tattooists can re-open in England from the 25th of July.
Announcing the changes, a Number 10 spokesperson has said: “There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus.
“The prime minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops and we will make this mandatory from July 24.”
Addressing the announcement confirming the mandatory face coverings, Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said:
“The government has been slow and muddled again over face coverings.”
“Given the government’s own guidance issued on 11 May advised in favour of face masks, many will ask why yet again have ministers been slow in making a decision in this pandemic, and why it’ll take another 11 days before these new guidelines to come into force.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan went further and called the government’s “confused communications” on the subject a “disgrace”.
“We can’t afford to wait another day and the government should bring this policy in immediately – further delay risks lives,” he urged.
And the British Chambers of Commerce’s co-executive director Claire Walker said: “Businesses need clarity on the approach to the wearing of face coverings that is consistent and supported by public health evidence.”
“Shops and other indoor businesses need to know what the new rules are as soon as possible.”
“Updated guidance, including on enforcement, should be issued swiftly so firms can maintain their COVID-secure status and continue their operations successfully.”
This comes after the chief executive of Hillingdon hospital in West London, which has now closed its A&E unit following an outbreak of COVID-19, has blamed its staff for not wearing masks at work.
In the Prime Minister’s most recent statement on wearing face coverings, which was 12 hours before the official confirmation by Downing Street, Boris Johnson said: “I think that as throughout this crisis people have shown amazing sensitivity towards other people and understanding of the needs to get the virus down by doing things cooperatively.”
“I think wearing masks is one of them. In a confined space what you’re doing is you’re protecting other people from the transmission that you might be giving to other people.”
“And they in turn they’re are protecting you. It’s a mutual thing. People do see the value of it.”
But just a day before that, Michael Gove suggested that wearing a mask in shops should not be mandatory for the British public, and said that he believed shoppers should be encouraged to wear them, but that he believed in “people’s good sense”.