LONDON (Reuters) – Shoppers in England will have to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets from July 24 to help reduce the risk of a new pick-up in the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said.
Johnson said last week that tighter rules on wearing face coverings might be needed but a senior minister – Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove – said on Sunday that wearing masks should be left instead to people’s common sense.
“The prime minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops and we will make this mandatory from July 24,” a spokesperson for Johnson’s Downing Street office said on Monday.
Britain has Europe’s highest coronavirus death toll, with almost 45,000 confirmed deaths.
In Scotland, which has its own powers over public health, as well as other countries such as Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece it is already compulsory to wear face coverings inside shops.
The opposition Labour Party criticised Johnson’s government for not moving sooner in England.
“Given the government’s own guidance issued on May 11 advised in favour of face masks, many will ask why yet again have ministers been slow in making a decision … and why it’ll take another 11 days before these new guidelines come into force,” Labour health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth said.
People who fail to wear a face covering will face a fine of up to 100 pounds ($126) – in line with existing fines for people who do not cover their face on public transport – which would fall to 50 pounds if paid within 14 days.
($1 = 0.7935 pounds)
(Writing by William Schomberg, Editing by William Maclean)