In line with other European nations like Germany, Italy and France, it will be now be compulsory to wear a face mask in shops and supermarkets. Those who fail to comply with the new rules will face a fine of up to £100. The announcement was made in response to rather mixed messaging from various governmental ministers.

Who will enforce the new rules?

The face mask rules will be enforced by police, and the fine will be reduced to £50 if the fine is paid within 14 days. Although shop workers will be encouraged to remind customers to wear masks, they will not be expected to enforce the rules. Calling the police to enforce the rules, however, should be the last resort according to the chair of the National Police Chiefs Council.

In Scotland, where the use of face coverings has been mandatory since the 10th July, police did not issue any fines during the first weekend of the rule being introduced. On public transport in London, 18,500 people have been prevented from travelling while not wearing a face mask, with 59 fines issued since the 15th June.

Is anyone exempt from wearing a mask?

Similar to the rules on public transport, there will be exemptions for children under 11 and people with physical or mental impairments. The mandatory rule will also not apply to retail staff.

What about pubs and restaurants?

Eating and drinking becomes a bit more difficult wearing a mask so the government has decreed that people can continue to visit pubs and restaurants without wearing any face covering.

Why isn’t the rule being introduced now?

Labour said that the government has been incredibly slow and confused when introducing new Covid-19 measures, and it’s been the same here. Some people have been asking why the rule is being introduced in 10 days. If the science shows it reduces transmission, then it should be introduced as soon as possible. However, the government has said that the long delay is for people to prepare for the new rules.

Can I take it off to talk?

No, Covid-19 is spread when microscopic droplets are sprayed into the air, for other people to inhale and touch. Although sneezing and coughing are the worst culprits, droplets can also escape the mouth when talking and breathing. So taking off the mask for a chat is a no no.

Will the rule make a difference?

People who work in retail are suffering from disproportionately higher rates of Covid-19. The death rate of retail assistants is 60-75% higher than what it is in the general population. Although the there is conflicting evidence on public use of masks, if a shop has low air circulation in an enclosed space with lots of customers, masks do make a difference.

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