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Wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets is to be made mandatory in England from next week, the government has announced.
In a statement on Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock will say anyone failing to comply with the order could face a fine of up to £100. The move comes into force on July 24.
It will bring England into line with Scotland, where face coverings are already mandatory in shops. Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece have also already made it compulsory to wear coverings inside shops.
The decision follows a weekend of confusion over whether ministers intended to make face coverings compulsory after Boris Johnson said they were looking at “stricter” rules.
The senior Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said on Sunday he did not believe they should be mandatory and that it was better to “trust people’s common sense”.
However, during a visit to the London Ambulance Service on Monday, the prime minister offered the clearest signal he was going down the route of compulsion, saying the government was looking at the “tools of enforcement”.
Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement by Hancock, a No 10 spokesman said: “There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus.
“The prime minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops and we will make this mandatory from July 24.”
The government has been urging people to wear face coverings in confined spaces such as shops since early May and they have already been made compulsory on public transport in England since mid-June.
The regulations will be made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, with a maximum fine of £100 – reduced to £50 if it is paid within 14 days.
Enforcement of the regulations will be the responsibility of the police.
While shop workers will...