Boris Johnson suggests face coverings could be made compulsory to curb coronavirus spread

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Boris Johnson has suggested face coverings could be made compulsory. (10 Downing Street/YouTube)

Boris Johnson has suggested face coverings could be made compulsory in confined spaces.

Speaking at Downing Street’s “people’s Prime Minister’s Questions” on Friday, Johnson said: “I do think we need to be stricter in insisting people wear face coverings in confined spaces.”

It comes after face coverings became compulsory in shops in Scotland on Friday, adding to rules requiring them to be worn on public transport.

In England, face coverings are currently only compulsory on public transport.

Johnson said during the online question and answer session: “As we get the [coronavirus infection] numbers down in the way that we have and we really stamp out outbreaks in the way that we are, I do think we need to be stricter in insisting people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don’t normally meet.

“We are looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops, for instance, where there is a risk of transmission.”

If the government does decide to make face coverings compulsory, it would mark a significant backtrack.

A man wearing a face covering on a tram in Manchester. (Jon Super/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Through February, March and April, the government and its top scientists repeatedly ruled out advising people to wear them, citing limited scientific evidence that they are effective.

In May, face coverings were officially recommended for the first time. They were then made compulsory on public transport on 15 June.

However, scientists have been split on the exact benefits of wearing a mask.

Read more: Coronavirus R rate range creeps up across England after lockdown restrictions eased

Johnson added on Friday: “The balance of scientific opinion seems to have shifted more in favour of them than it was. We are very keen to follow that.

“I do want to get back to a world where the British people are able to shake hands – that’s what we are aiming for.

“But face coverings, we increasingly think that we have got to be very insistent in confined spaces, where you are meeting people you don’t normally come into contact with – transport, shops – wear a face cover.”

Johnson was later pictured wearing a face covering while visiting businesses in his constituency.

Speaking as face coverings became compulsory in shops in Scotland on Friday, Nicola Sturgeon said she “recognised” concerns they may be uncomfortable to wear.

But the first minister added: “I say that from personal experience, you get used to it and it becomes less uncomfortable the more you do it.”

With health and care staff often having to wear them for long shifts, Sturgeon said wearing face coverings in shops was a “small thing we can do for them”.

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