Boris Johnson has signalled that face coverings will become mandatory for shoppers in England by announcing the government will make its decision on them “in the next few days”.
Labour has called for “urgent clarity” on the issue after growing confusion about face coverings caused by mixed messages from senior ministers.
The prime minister said he thinks people should wear face coverings in shops and that: “They have a great deal of value in confined spaces where you’re coming into contact with people you don’t normally meet.”
Johnson said the “scientific evaluation of face coverings and their importance on stopping aerosol droplets” has been growing “so I do think that in shops it is very important to wear a face covering if you’re going to be in a confined space and you want to protect other people and receive protection in turn.”
Gove – ‘people are intelligent and should be trusted’
He made his comments during a visit to the London Ambulance Service this morning (Monday) – less than 24 hours after cabinet secretary Michael Gove said the use of masks should not be made compulsory.
The senior minister told Sky’s Sophy Ridge programme on Sunday that people should be trusted to use their own judgement as to whether a mask is appropriate in different settings.
“I think it’s quite right to treat people with the respect that their intelligence and judgment deserves,” said Gove.
“It mustn’t be the case that anyone thinks that wearing a face mask would make you invulnerable.”
This morning the PM said the government will “be looking at the guidance” regarding making face coverings mandatory and this afternoon Johnson’s official spokesman confirmed a formal review is underway.
Labour calls for urgent clarity
Shadow health secretary Johnathan Ashworth has written to Matt Hancock and called for “urgent clarity” to address the confusion as to whether people should wear masks when shopping.
“Conflicting advice and conflicting statements from the government only hinder our fight against the virus. Clear communication is vital in combating the spread of Covid-19,” wrote Ashworth.
“For the public to know that they are doing the right thing in shops, restaurants and other crowded places, I am asking that you urgently set out the position on face coverings.
Wales makes masks compulsory on transport from July 27
The ‘masks debate’ has been raging around the corridors of power at Westminster and across the UK. In Scotland it became compulsory to wear face coverings when shopping on Friday.
In Wales the government said today that face masks will be compulsory on public transport and in taxis from July 27 – six weeks after England made face coverings mandatory on buses, trains and trams.
However, masks and face coverings will not be compulsory for shoppers with the Welsh government’s advice leaving it up to individuals to decide to wear one or not.
The chief medical officer in Wales remains unconvinced about the merits of masks and their effectiveness in the fight against the coronavirus but the move to make face coverings on public transport compulsory is seen as a shift of the policy.