Boris Johnson says wearing face masks in shops has 'great deal of value'

13 July 2020, 14:46

Boris Johnson is set to make an announcement on masks within days
Boris Johnson is set to make an announcement on masks within days. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson has said there will be an announcement 'in the next few days' on whether face masks will be made mandatory in shops in England to stop the spread of coronavirus.

On an outing today to meet members of the London Ambulance Service, Mr Johnson backed their use, saying "they have a great deal of value in confined spaces where you're coming into contact with people you don't normally meet."

He also said the government is looking at options for "enforcement".

"The scientific evaluation of face coverings and their importance on stopping aerosol droplets, that's 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.

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"Yes, face coverings, I think people should be wearing in shops, and in terms of how we do that - whether we will be making that mandatory or not - we will be looking at the guidance, we will be saying a little bit more in the next few days."

Mr Johnson was meeting with London Ambulance Service workers today
Mr Johnson was meeting with London Ambulance Service workers today. Picture: PA

He also said the government would be looking options for "enforcement" of any new rules.

"We will be looking in the next few days about exactly how, with what tools of enforcement, we think we want to make progress (over coronavirus)," he said.

"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.

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"To be absolutely clear I do think that face coverings do have a real value in confined spaces and I do think the public understand that."

It comes after some regions of Spain introduced fines for anyone over the age of five who goes out in public without a mask.

Earlier today, cabinet minister Robert Buckland said he would "perhaps" support making them mandatory when in public.

The Justice Secretary said he fell into the "mandatory, perhaps" category on whether to insist people wear them in public.

Mr Johnson hinted last week that masks could be made compulsory in shops, saying he wanted to be "stricter" on their use.

However Michael Gove said on Sunday it was "best to trust people's common sense" rather than force people.

Mr Buckland said: "He (Mr Gove) took the view as he was answering the question that he thought we should encourage good sense - I agree with that.

"If it becomes necessary to nudge people further by taking further action then of course we will consider that.

"I think the matter is under careful and daily review."

Labour has demanded "clarity" on the Government's position.

Dr Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, told Good Morning Britain that the evidence on face coverings had "shifted".

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) member said: "It's (evidence) now quite strongly in favour of using face coverings in enclosed spaces where we're likely to come into contact with strangers.

"I think that the Government should be very clear. 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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James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones book stores, said asking customers to wear a face covering was a "reasonable measure".

When asked if the policy could boost shopper confidence, he told the Today programme: "I don't think it is a huge factor, but I also think if it reassures people, then it is a perfectly reasonable measure to take."

But he said staff working across his chain of stores would not be asked to "police" the wearing of coverings.

Mr Daunt added: "There will be a tiny, tiny minority of people who will be confrontational over it and it is not the position of shop workers to enter into that situation.

"We shouldn't put ourselves in confrontational positions, but I think we can, as retailers, if we are requested to do so, clearly tell everybody it is a sensible thing to do."