Face masks to be made compulsory in all shops and supermarkets

The Government will announce face masks are to be made compulsory in all shops and supermarkets in England from July 24.

In a statement on Tuesday (July 14), Health Secretary Matt Hancock will say anyone failing to comply with the order could face a fine of up to £100.

The move follows a weekend of confusion over whether ministers intended to make face coverings compulsory after Boris Johnson said they were looking at “stricter” rules.

The senior Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said on Sunday he did not believe they should be mandatory and that it was better to “trust people’s common sense”.

However, during a visit to the London Ambulance Service on Monday, the Prime Minister offered the clearest signal he was going down the route of compulsion, saying the Government was looking at the “tools of enforcement”.

Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement by Mr Hancock, a No 10 spokesman 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.”

The move will bring England into line with Scotland, where face coverings are already mandatory in shops.

The Government has been urging people to wear face coverings in confined spaces such as shops since early May and they have already been made compulsory on public transport in England since mid-June.

The regulations will be made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, with a maximum fine of £100 – reduced to £50 if it is paid within 14 days.

Enforcement of the regulations will be the responsibility of the police.

While shop workers will be asked to encourage compliance, retailers and businesses will not be expected to enforce them.

As is the case on public transport, children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said the Government needed to issue detailed guidance on the new requirement “as soon as possible”.

Speaking during his visit to the London Ambulance Service, Mr Johnson said he was now keen to make progress on the issue.

“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,” he said.

The president of the Royal Society, Dr Venki Ramakrishnan, said the evidence was now “quite strongly in favour” of using face coverings in enclosed spaces where people are likely to come into contact with strangers.

“I think that the Government should be very clear,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

“It’s not consistent to make it mandatory on public transport and not make it mandatory in other enclosed and busy public spaces, because the behaviour of the virus is the same in all of these spaces.”

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