Covid: Britons who refuse to wear a mask ‘face fines of £200’ as ministers tighten rules

·3-min read

Britons who refuse to wear a face mask will face fines of £200 as the Government tightens Covid restrictions to contain the Omicron variant, according to a report.

Boris Johnson on Saturday announced that face coverings would become mandatory again in shops and on public transport to curb the spread of the new strain.

Those who refuse to wear a mask will face an initial fine of £200, according to the Telegraph. This could rise to £400 for a second infraction and £800 for a third.

Anyone who repeatedly flouts mask wearing rules could face a maximum charge of £6,400.

A change to regulations will be tabled in the House of Commons on Monday before the rules come into effect on Tuesday, the newspaper reported.

The system will remain the same as during the third national lockdown. Those who pay their first fine within 14 days will see the charge halved to £100.

It follows the news that school children from Year 7 onwards will be mandated to wear face masks in communal areas from Monday.

Watch: Health minister questioned on Government's plans to tackle Omicron variant

However, rules on face coverings will not apply to the hospitality sector or at concerts, cinemas and theatres.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said the measures were proportionate given the threat of the Omicron variant, which scientists fear could be more transmissible and vaccine resistant.

“Doing it in this proportionate way where it’s for public transport, it’s for retail outlets, I think is the right level of response on masks,” he told Sky News.

“It will be via government regulation and that means, I think, that people will take it seriously.”

Mr Javid claimed that the tightening of the rules would make Britons take the threat of the virus “more seriously”. The rules will be reviewed in three weeks time.

Rail bosses warned that train workers feared they would be left to deal with angry travellers refusing to wear a mask once the rules come into effect.

Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, said: “We support the wearing of masks but there are major issues about enforcement and it is our members left in the front line with angry passengers who refuse to comply.”

Passengers wearing face masks on the Jubilee Line in London (PA)
Passengers wearing face masks on the Jubilee Line in London (PA)

James Lowman, the chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said retailers were “extremely concerned about abuse against their staff” from customers who did not wish to wear a face covering in a shop.

The tightening of measures comes after a third case of the Omicron variant was detected on Sunday. The individual is said to have travelled to Westminster in Central London while infectious.

It brings the total number of Omicron cases to three after two infections were detected in Essex and Nottinghamshire on Saturday.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “In light of the new Omicron variant the government has taken swift and decisive action to mandate face coverings in some settings including shops and on public transport.

“Face coverings can provide protection to those around you and can help prevent the spread of the virus.”

Watch: How worried should we be about the new Covid variant?

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