Face masks now compulsory in UK shops, supermarkets to check Covid-19 spread

Face coverings must be worn in shops, supermarkets, indoor shopping centres and transport hubs — such as train stations and airports — in England from Friday as part of the next stage of the UK government’s official guidance to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Under the new regulations, members of the public will need to wear face coverings — such as a fabric covering, scarf or bandana — that cover the nose and mouth in additional enclosed public spaces, as announced by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month.

It will be compulsory to wear a face covering when buying food and drink to takeaway from cafes and shops.

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“If you are in a premises where you are able to sit down and consume food or drink that you have bought, then you can remove your face covering in order to eat and drink on site,” said the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Face coverings will not be mandatory for anyone under the age of 11, those with disabilities or certain health conditions, such as respiratory or cognitive impairments that make it difficult for them to wear a face covering.

There is evidence to suggest that, when used correctly, face coverings may reduce the likelihood of someone with the infection passing it on to others, particularly if they are asymptomatic, the DHSC said.

“As we move into the next stage of easing restrictions for the public, it is vital we continue to shop safely so that we can make the most of our fantastic retail industry this summer,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

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“Everyone must play their part in fighting this virus by following this new guidance. I also want to thank the British public for all the sacrifices they are making to help keep this country safe,” he said.

He said businesses are encouraged to take reasonable steps to encourage customers to follow the law, including through signs and providing other information in store.

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Wearing a face covering will not be made mandatory in other venues that have measures in place to protect staff and the public from Covid-19, including eat-in restaurants and pubs, hairdressers and other treatment salons, gyms and leisure centres, cinemas, concert halls and theatres.

For transport hubs in England, the requirements mean face coverings must be worn in indoor train stations and terminals, airports, maritime ports, and indoor bus and coach stations or terminals.

Anyone who doesn’t abide by the regulations — and is not exempt under one of the categories set out in the regulations — could face a fine by the police of up to GBP 100, as is currently the case on public transport in most parts of the UK. The police say they have been very clear throughout the pandemic that they will “engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce as a last resort”.

People wearing face coverings are still strongly advised to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before putting one on or taking it off, avoid taking it off and putting it back on again a lot in quick succession, store it in a plastic bag in between washes or wearing, and avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth while wearing one.

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