Bringing England in line with Scotland and many other European countries, from 24 July it will be mandatory to wear a face mask or covering in all shops and supermarkets, where social distancing can be difficult to maintain.
While stores will be expected to encourage customers to follow the new rule, official enforcement of the legislation will be handled by police, who will be able to serve £100 fines on anyone failing to comply (reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days).
Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast that implementation of mandatory face coverings was about ‘managing the overall risk’ and that ‘any type of covering will be sufficient’.
The rule will not apply to retail staff, those with certain disabilities or children under 11. Other enclosed settings in which masks are considered impractical – such as cafés and pubs – will also be exempt.
In Scotland, face coverings became compulsory in retail settings on 10 July. In Wales and Northern Ireland masks are not a current requirement for shoppers, however the situation remains under review.
Has retail changed forever?
The news comes as Ocado predicts a ‘permanent redrawing’ of the retail landscape, as it reports a 27% increase in online sales during the first half of 2020, to the value of more than £1 billion.
“The world as we know it has changed,” comments Tim Steiner, chief executive of Ocado.
“As a result of Covid-19, we have seen years of growth in the online grocery market condensed into a matter of months; and we won’t be going back.”
“We are confident that accelerated growth in the online channel will continue, leading to a permanent redrawing of the landscape of the grocery industry worldwide.”