Matt Hancock says face masks will not be made mandatory in offices

15 July 2020, 07:59

Matt Hancock has said the Government will not be making people wear masks in offices
Matt Hancock has said the Government will not be making people wear masks in offices. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Government has no plans to make people wear face coverings in the office, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

"We will not be recommending masks in the office," he told Sky News when asked about proposals to do so in Blackburn.

Mr Hancock told LBC's Tom Swarbrick that a mask was "valuable" in protecting other people if you have coronavirus, "especially people you don't meet very regularly."

He said the mask would not make "much difference" if you were among people you normally spend time with.

His comments come after a Daily Telegraph report claimed ministers were considering extending the policy on face masks to offices and other workplaces.

Mr Hancock denied there was confusion surrounding the new rules requiring people to wear face coverings in shops from July 24, after two of his Cabinet colleagues were pictured in a branch of Pret a Manger - one wearing a mask and one not.

He told LBC that a photo of Michael Gove in a shop not wearing a mask was taken before he made the announcement about the incoming rules.

He clarified that businesses had been given time to prepare and "at the moment, the rule is wearing a face covering is recommended," but not mandatory.

Mr Hancock told Sky News people would need to wear a face-covering in Pret from July 24 because it is a "shop", explaining: "In hospitality, so in a restaurant, there needs to be table service.

"If there's table service, it is not necessary to have a mask. But in any shop, you do need a mask. So, if you're going up to the counter in Pret to buy takeaway that is a shop... but if you go to your local pub you can't go to the bar."

The decision to make face coverings mandatory in England's shops, with exemptions for children under 11 and people with certain disabilities and breathing conditions, provoked fury in parts of the Conservative Party.

On social media, some grassroots members posted pictures of their cut-up membership cards, while in the Commons former minister Sir Desmond Swayne labelled the measure a "monstrous imposition against myself and a number of outraged and reluctant constituents".

On Tuesday, Environment Secretary George Eustice did not rule out the mandatory use of face coverings being extended to offices and other workplaces in the future.

Asked whether their use could be extended to offices, he said "At the moment we take one step at a time and we've taken the view in this next step that we should make it mandatory in retail environments.

"When it comes to workplace environments, because people are in the same company throughout the day, there are not lots of people coming through the venue as you have in a retail environment; the risk of transmission is therefore lower."

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