Boris Johnson warns ‘we could be fighting Covid next summer’ as face masks become mandatory in shops

Britain may be fighting Covid-19 until the middle of next year, Boris Johnson warned as he urged millions of people to wear a face covering when going shopping today.

However, as face masks became mandatory in stores this morning, there was confusion in London, with some shoppers blaming mixed messaging from the Government.

Visiting a GP surgery in Beckton, to highlight plans to vaccinate 30 million people against flu this year, the Prime Minister warned of the risks of a second wave of coronavirus in the autumn and winter.

He said: “This whole planet has faced a very nasty new foe in the form of a bug that we did not know about before.

“I think that by the middle of next year, we will be well on the way past it but I must be clear with people I do still think we have tough times ahead in keeping this virus under control, and we have tough times ahead in coming through economically.

“But I absolutely have no doubt that we are going to.”

Mr Johnson also took a swipe at anti-vaccine campaigners, branding them “nuts”.

On his first anniversary of becoming PM, he appealed to people to wear face masks in shops, banks, post offices and train stations, or risk a £100 fine.

But there was some confusion on the high street today.

Chains including some branches of Costa, Caffè Nero and Pret A Manger were allowing customers to buy takeaway food and drink without face coverings, which was yesterday confirmed as being against the rules, after contradictory statements from ministers.

In the South Ealing branch of Costa, electrician Chris Kilty, 54, bought his coffee without a mask and claimed it was a victory for “common sense”.

A member of staff told a customer: “If you sit in we need to take your details, but if you want a takeaway you can come in without a mask. That’s the guidelines.”

At Caffè Nero and Pret A Manger on Ealing Broadway, customers filtered in and out, more than half without masks.

Caffè Nero customer Jason Jones, 23, said: “No one challenged me. It was just like an ordinary day. If someone ordered me to put in a mask I probably would.”

In McDonald’s the rules also went unfollowed. Magec Petr, 45, went in a west London branch for breakfast and was not challenged. He said: “Today you have to wear a mask? I didn’t know. No one said anything.”

Hamish Bryan, 32, who had been to Starbucks, said: “I find it strange that people are so against masks but I do think it’s confusing. All the government advice has to be honest.”

Mr Johnson at the GP surgery today (Jeremy Selwyn)

Anamona Balan, 46, who works at Cards Galore in Hammersmith, said a handful of customers had visited not wearing masks. She added: “I can’t say anything to them, it’s not polite. They are a customer. But it is also up to police, not me.”

Care minister Helen Whately appealed to people not to think that wearing a mask means they can ease back on social distancing measures such as staying two metres apart.

New figures showed London was hardest hit by the first Covid-19 wave, with the highest age-standardised mortality rate in the country — 141.8 deaths involving coronavirus per 100,000 people — with nine of the 10 worst affected areas in the capital, including Brent, Newham and Haringey.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords science and technology committee has written to Mr Johnson calling for better coronavirus preparations now, including a target to reduce the number cases by October to as low as possible so that if as expected the disease spreads from the autumn it will do so from a low base.

It also urged the Government to launch a concerted public health campaign on the need to drive down infection rates before winter and to decide whether to use “multiplex” testing to identify coronavirus and other infections in coming months.


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