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Could masks become mandatory in public? PM to update England shops guidance 'in next few days'

·Freelance news writer, Yahoo UK
·3-min read
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Boris Johnson has dropped a fresh hint that face coverings and masks will become compulsory in shops in England.

The prime minister said face coverings have a “great deal of value in confined spaces” amid the continued presence of the coronavirus, adding: “I think people should be wearing [them] in shops.”

Downing Street later said it was carrying out a “formal review” with scientific advisers, with the announcement of a “final position in the next few days”.

Johnson was speaking during a visit to the headquarters of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, during which he wore a mask.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 13: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visits the headquarters of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust  on July 13, 2020 in London, England.  (Photo by Ben Stansall-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson dropped a fresh hint face coverings will be made compulsory during a visit to the headquarters of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust on Monday. (Ben Stansall/pool/Getty Images)

He told reporters: “The scientific evaluation of face coverings and their importance on stopping aerosol droplets, that’s been growing, so I do think that in shops it is very important to wear a face covering if you’re going to be in a confined space and you want to protect other people and receive protection in turn.

“Yes, face coverings, I think people should be wearing in shops, and in terms of how we do that – whether we will be making that mandatory or not – we will be looking at the guidance, we will be saying a little bit more in the next few days.”

Justice secretary Robert Buckland earlier said he would “perhaps” support making it compulsory to wear face coverings in public.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (2L), talks with CEO London Ambulance Service Garrett Emmerson (L) after meeting brothers paramedic a paramedic Jack Binder (2R) and firefighter Tom Binder (R), standing inside the back of an ambulance, during his visit to the headquarters of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust in central London on July 13, 2020. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson talks with London Ambulance Service CEO Garrett Emmerson after meeting brothers Jack Binder, a paramedic, and Tom Binder, a firefighter, on Monday. (Ben Stansall/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if he is in the “mandatory perhaps” or “mandatory never” camp, Buckland said: “I think I’m ‘mandatory perhaps’.”

“If it becomes necessary to nudge people further by taking further action, then of course we will consider that.

“I think the matter is under careful and daily review.”

However, on Sunday, another senior minister, Michael Gove, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show he doesn’t think face coverings should be made compulsory and that it is “basic good manners” to wear one.

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

Johnson was later pictured wearing one for the first time as he visited shops in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.

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

They became compulsory in shops in Scotland on Friday, adding to the country’s public transport rules.

Masks become compulsory on public transport, including taxis, in Wales on Monday.

A shopper with a protective face mask walking down Oxford Street as people in London, UK on July 11, 2020  prepare for the possibility of Face coverings becoming mandatory in shops and other public places across the UK.  (Photo by Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A shopper wears a protective face mask in London's Oxford Street on Saturday. (Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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

Throughout 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.

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