WEARING a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England is to become mandatory from 24 July.
Those who fail to comply with the new rules will face a fine of up to £100, the government is to announce.
The move will bring England into line with Scotland and other major European nations like Spain, Italy and Germany.
Since mid-May, the public have been advised to wear coverings in enclosed public spaces, where they may encounter people they would not usually meet.
It has been compulsory on public transport in England since 15 June.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to set out the new guidance on face coverings on Tuesday.
They are designed to minimise the spread of coronavirus and also encourage people to return to the shops safely.
It follows a reported increase in the use of face coverings by people in England, Scotland and Wales.
More than half of adults surveyed by the Office for National Statistics in the first week of July said they used a covering while outside their home.
Meanwhile, a report requested by the government’s chief scientific adviser suggests the UK could see around 120,000 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals during a “reasonable” worst-case scenario this winter.
Labour said ministers’ had been “slow and muddled” on face coverings and questioned why the new rules would not come into force for 11 days.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme using a face covering “is a small thing which along with other measures can make a massive difference”.
He said that, on public transport in London, some 18,500 people have been stopped from travelling for not wearing a face covering since 15 June with 59 fines issued.
The latest rules for shops will be enforced by the police, with anyone disregarding them at risk of a fine of up to £100. This will be reduced to £50 if people pay within 14 days.
While shop workers will be encouraged to prompt customers to comply, they will not be expected to enforce the rules, allaying unions’ concerns about their involvement.
In line with the rules on public transport, children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.
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 24 July.”
Unions have said the new guidance must be “clear and detailed” to protect staff and customers.
While welcoming clarity over the issue, Usdaw said coverings could not be a substitute for strict hygiene controls and social distancing measures, such as limiting the number of people allowed in a store at any one time.
Downing Street said it would keep the guidance on face coverings in other settings, such as offices, under review.
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