Face masks will be mandatory in shops, banks and takeaways from tomorrow, the Government has announced.
The Department of Health has released its official face mask rules for England just hours before they come into force on Friday.
According to the new laws, face masks must be worn in shops, banks, supermarkets, post offices, shopping centres and transport hubs. However, venues such as restaurants, pubs, gyms, salons and theatres will be exempt.
People with disabilities, health conditions and children under the age of 11 do not have to wear a covering.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “As we move into the next stage of easing restrictions for the public, it is vital we continue to shop safely so that we can make the most of our fantastic retail industry this summer.
“Everyone must play their part in fighting this virus by following this new guidance. I also want to thank the British public for all the sacrifices they are making to help keep this country safe.”
The rules follow ones already in place for public transport. The announcement also ends days of confusion after ministers apparently gave different accounts of what the rules would be for buying a takeaway coffee.
The guidance says it will be mandatory to wear a face covering when buying a takeaway coffee from a café.
The Department of Health said: “It will be compulsory to wear a mask when buying food and drink to takeaway from cafes and shops.
“If you are in a premises where you are able to sit down and consume food or drink that you have bought, then you can remove your face covering in order to eat and drink on site.”
Business Secretary Alok Sharma last week said wearing a face mask would be encouraged but not compulsory in such circumstances.
This apparently contradicted Mr Hancock who just a day earlier had said that face coverings would be mandatory when going into a cafe or other takeaway to get a coffee or food.
The policy had been even further confused by senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove, while firmly opposing making mask compulsory in takeaway outlets, stating that it was “basic good manners to wear a face mask if you are in a shop”, but then being pictured in a Pret store near Parliament without one.
Downing Street also suggested it “wouldn’t be mandatory” to wear a covering when going into a sandwich shop.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak then shared a photograph of himself wearing a face mask in Pret A Manger.
Today’s rules end the confusion with the Health Secretary apparently having won the argument.
The regulations were drawn up by the Department of Health and Social Care as it is a public health issue.
People who flout the new law will risk a £100 fine, reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days.
The Government says there is evidence to suggest that face coverings may reduce the likelihood of someone with the infection passing it on to others.
Union leaders have voiced concerns that the new rules may put workers’ safety at risk and said the Government’s advice had been “confusing”.
Paddy Lillis, general secretary of shop workers’ union Usdaw, supported the mandatory wearing of masks in shops, but called for “clear and detailed” guidance from the Government.
Meanwhile, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady told PA: “Abuse of shop staff is never acceptable, but verbal and physical abuse rose during the pandemic, and the new rules requiring shoppers to wear masks may further risk staff safety.
“Shop staff are not required to police the wearing of face masks – employers must make this clear, and every employer must publish a risk assessment that sets out how they will safeguard staff from abusive customers and those who refuse to wear masks.”
The latest guidance will be published on the Government’s website.