Face masks mandatory in shops, supermarkets and takeaways from today

From today, people will have to wear face masks in shops, takeaways, and supermarkets in England.

Those aged over 11 will need to don a covering to do a lot of general shopping, unless they have a valid reason not to such as an illness or disability.

Those flouting the rules risk being hit with a £100 fine.

The full list of places masks must be worn, including banks, building societies and post offices, can be found here.

Masks can be removed if a person eats inside an establishment, and they will not be compulsory in places such as restaurants and pubs, hairdressers, gyms, leisure centres, cinemas, concert halls and theatres.

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The aim is to protect people from coronavirus, as masks have been proved to reduce transmission of Covid-19.

The British Medical Association (BMA) warned the virus ‘does not discriminate between buildings’ and said there must be ‘an absolute assurance’ that other mitigating measures are in place at sites where masks are not required, such as screens and physical distancing.

The guidance states that people should ‘assume’ it is standard to wear a face covering when visiting a hospital, GP, care home or other primary or community healthcare setting.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chairman, said while the guidance is helpful, it has come late in the day and has not inspired confidence among the public.

He said: ‘In the 10 days since this rule change was announced, we’ve seen confusion, mixed messaging and U-turns from the Government about how it would apply, leaving it until the last minute to issue any meaningful guidance.

‘So, while today’s guidance is in some ways helpful, the uncertainty of recent weeks has done nothing to inspire public confidence.’

The British Retail Consortium called on customers to be ‘respectful’ of the new rules and criticised the Government for taking so long to publish the new laws and guidance.

Union leaders have voiced fears the rules could put workers’ safety at risk if there are abusive customers or those who refuse to wear a mask and officials accused the Government’s advice of being confusing.

On Thursday Costa Coffee said it would ‘not be challenging customers who enter our stores without a mask since they may have a legitimate reason as to why they are unable to wear one.’

Sainsbury’s said while it is asking everyone to continue ‘playing their part’ in helping to keep everyone safe in store by following the rules, ‘our colleagues will not be responsible for enforcing them’.

Asda said it will ‘strongly encourage customers to wear a face covering’, but added: ‘It is the responsibility of the relevant authorities to police and enforce the new rules.’

Tesco will be selling face coverings at the entrance and Waitrose said staff would be at the entrance to stores reminding customers of the requirement.

But customers will be ‘required’ to wear a face covering in Greggs.

McDonald’s said takeaway customers will need to wear face coverings but those who eat in the restaurant will not unless they are moving around the premises, for example to use toilets or when at self-order screens.

Last week police chiefs were blindsided by the Government’s announcement after they were not told in advance of the plans.

Although ministers initially urged retailers and officers to enforce the rules, National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt said police action should be a last resort.

The Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank-and-file officers, said it was ‘unrealistic and unfair’ to expect them to patrol the aisles looking for people breaking the coronavirus regulations.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she hoped shoppers who refuse to wear masks would be ‘shamed’ into compliance.

The Government said the responsibility for wearing a face covering ‘sits with individuals’, adding: ‘Businesses are encouraged to take reasonable steps to encourage customers to follow the law, including through signs and providing other information in store.’

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters on Thursday: ‘With shops, we would expect them to give advice to customers and remind them that they should be wearing a face covering and I’m sure the overwhelming majority of the public will do so.’

The laws could be in place until at least January, and could even last a year, unless the Government decides to scrap them in the meantime.

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