LONDON: Wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England is to become mandatory from 24 July. Those who fail to comply with the new rules will face a fine of up to £100, the government is to announce.
The move will bring England into line with Scotland and other major European nations like Spain, Italy and Germany. Since mid-May, the public have been advised to wear coverings in enclosed public spaces, where they may encounter people they would not usually meet. It has been compulsory on public transport in England since 15 June. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.
Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast the new mandatory rule for face coverings in shops does not apply to retail staff. “It is about managing the overall risk,” he added. “Any type of covering will be sufficient for this purpose.”
It follows a reported increase in the use of face coverings by people in England, Scotland and Wales.
More than half of adults surveyed by the Office for National Statistics in the first week of July said they used a covering while outside their home.
Meanwhile, a report requested by the government’s chief scientific adviser suggests the UK could see around 120,000 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals during a “reasonable” worst-case scenario this winter.
Labour said ministers’ had been “slow and muddled” on face coverings and questioned why the new rules would not come into force for 11 days.
But Mr Eustice said research on the use of face coverings, including advice from the World Health Organization, had been “evolving”. The delay between the announcement and the rule coming into force on 24 July “gives people time to prepare” but people will start wearing coverings from today
People are “intelligent and responsible enough” to wear face coverings and the mandatory rule sends “a much stronger signal that people will follow in greater numbers” Wearing face coverings in shops is an “appropriate mitigation” against the “overall risk” of the coronavirus but the rule would not work in pubs, cafes or restaurants
Mr Eustice told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “With all of our laws there is an element of policing by consent and so we need the public to play their part and abide by the restrictions.” The latest rules for shops will be enforced by the police, with anyone disregarding them at risk of a fine of up to £100. This will be reduced to £50 if people pay within 14 days.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told Today that, on public transport in London, some 18,500 people have been stopped from travelling for not wearing a face covering since 15 June with 59 fines issued.