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The public will not have to wear face masks in food takeaway shops when new rules kick in next week, Downing Street has revealed.
Visitors to most shops and supermarkets will be required to wear face coverings from Friday July 24, with £100 fines for refusal.
But in a move that spares the blushes of cabinet minister Michael Gove – who was photographed without a mask leaving a Pret a Manger – No.10 said that there will be an exemption for sandwich retailers and fast food sellers.
Gove had said on Sunday that it was “basic good manners” to wear a face covering in shops, but just a day later was snapped without one as he exited a sandwich store in Westminster. Fellow minister Liz Truss visited the same shop with a mask.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “We will be publishing the full guidance shortly but my understanding is that it wouldn’t be mandatory if you went in, for example, to a sandwich shop in order to get a takeaway to wear a face covering.
“It is mandatory… we are talking about supermarkets and other shops, rather than food shops.”
No.10 said that detailed guidance on the new rules will be published “shortly”.
I thought it was "basic good manners" to wear a face mask in shops...? pic.twitter.com/UASJ1yRSRf— Matt Dathan (@matt_dathan) July 14, 2020
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier on Wednesday that he was “not frankly interested” whether Gove wore a mask in the Pret a Manger.
“Those photographs were taken before I announced the change in policy to the House of Commons yesterday afternoon,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“And it’s absolutely straightforward that from July 24 we’re making it mandatory to wear a face covering in a shop in the same way it’s mandatory on public transport and in the NHS.”
But chancellor Rishi Sunak – who was criticised last week for waiting tables in a restaurant without a mask – tweeted a photo of himself wearing one in a Pret a Manger on Wednesday.
Making the most of @Pret's price cut in response to the VAT reduction that takes effect today for the tourism and hospitality sectors.— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) July 15, 2020
As part of our #PlanForJobs this temporary cut will help over 150,000 businesses protect the jobs of 2.4 million people. pic.twitter.com/mSh6jOvBlp
Gove had told the Andrew Marr programme on Sunday that he preferred voluntary rather than mandatory mask wearing, declaring: ”I think that it is basic good manners, courtesy, consideration to wear a face mask if you are, for example, in a shop.”
However, Hancock appeared to contradict the Downing Street line earlier when he told Sky News: “In any shop you do need a mask. So, if you’re going up to the counter in Pret to buy takeaway, that is a shop - that is Pret operating as a shop.”
In a separate move, No.10 also defended the PM’s practice of “elbow bumping” people he met, despite its breach of social distancing guidelines of staying one metre away from others while wearing a mask.
Boris Johnson repeatedly used the gesture when he met NHS staff at an ambulance station earlier this week.
“That’s the PM’s way of greeting people while keeping some distance from them,” a No.10 spokesperson said.
Labour has accused the government of “dangerous mixed messaging” on face coverings.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.