Face masks in shops mandatory from Tuesday amid Omicron fears
Mask-wearing in England is to become compulsory again in some settings.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own guidelines, with face coverings already mandatory on public transport and many indoor areas.
In an announcement on Saturday evening, prime minister Boris Johnson said wearing face masks will become mandatory in all shops, and on public transport, in England. The rules surrounding face masks were relaxed in England in July.
Boris Johnson confirmed the move in a press conference called after two cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus were detected in the UK. The Prime Minister said hospitality will be exempt from the rule change, and further details will be outlined by the Health Secretary “in the course of the next day or so”.
Speaking at Downing Street on Saturday evening, he said: “On face coverings, what we’re looking at is retail and transport, just going back to a position where you have to wear them in retail settings or on public transport.”
The British Retail Consortium, which represents the industry, said it is up to the police to enforce the measure. “However, customers are asked to respect the rules and be considerate to their fellow shoppers and to hard-working shop staff,” it said.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “We are helping retailers to prepare for the change in face covering rules, but they are extremely concerned about abuse against their staff from customers who don’t want to wear a face covering in a shop.
“We will continue to urge stores to communicate the rules, but not to challenge those who refuse to abide by the rules.”
Paddy Lillis, general secretary of retail trade union Usdaw criticised the Government for its “flip-flopping” on Covid measures, adding that continual rule changes “create confusion, reduce compliance and can lead to conflict.”
The union boss added that retail staff working with the public are “deeply worried” about catching Covid-19 and that the arrival of the Omicron variant is a “further concern”.
“Wearing a face covering protects others, it should not be a personal preference, but a personal responsibility,” added Lillis.
The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) said it supports people wearing face coverings in shops in England: “We are pleased that a decision has been made to keep everyone safe and stop the spread of this new variant.”
Bira’s chief executive Andrew Goodacre said: “We now hope that the general public will be as responsible as the shop owners and staff and wear face coverings without any objections.”
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