Fines of up to £100 will be handed out for those not wearing face coverings or masks in shops.
We’re all adjusting to life in a very different world at the moment, as the UK tries to steer a newer, healthier course in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Though July 4 saw the much-anticipated reopening of pubs, restaurants, hotels, and more, and the likes of indoor gyms, swimming pools, and outdoor gigs are set to return later this month, life still looks very different to the way it did in February. And whilst face masks and coverings are a common sight around town, they’re set to become even more prevalent from July 24, as the UK government has made it mandatory to wear them in supermarkets, shops, and other confined spaces from this date.
Face coverings are already mandatory on public transport in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (Wales is following suit later this month), and TfL recently revealed that thousands of Londoners have been prevented from boarding London buses for not wearing face masks. Now – a day after Boris Johnson declared that people “should be wearing” face coverings when inside shops – the government has announced the latest shift in policy, which will see England join Scotland (where the rule has been in effect since late June) in making them mandatory whilst inside shops.
Those who fail to wear face coverings or masks in these spaces will face a £100 fine, but there are a few exceptions, including children under the age of eleven, people who find masks difficult to wear due to a physical or mental disability, police and public transport staff, emergency responders, and anyone upon whom a deaf person relies for lipreading. Additionally, Environment Minister George Eustice, speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning, indicated that shop staff won’t be required to wear masks at this time. Meanwhile, there are currently no plans to enforce their use in restaurants and pubs.
Masks and face coverings have proved effective at helping reduce the rate of transmission, by reducing the chances of someone with the virus spreading it to others, so expanding the rule to further enclosed public places is a logical next step. Though fines won’t be handed out for non-compliance until July 24, it’s probably good practice to start wearing them ASAP – for his part, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said that ministers shouldn’t wait until July 24 to enforce their use. In the meantime, you’d best pick one up from London’s face mask vending machines, or see our guide to buying or making your own mask.
Also published on Medium.