IN UK, wear a mask or face hefty fine
PIC: AFP

The UK government ended days of speculation and declared on Tuesday that wearing a face mask or face covering will become mandatory in shops across England from July 24, as part of efforts to control the spread of coronavirus as the country eases out of lockdown.

The enforcement powers for the new policy will be handed to the police and anyone failing to wear a face covering while shopping will be subject to a fine of up to 100 pounds, or 50 pounds if paid speedily within 14 days.

"There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus," a 10 Downing Street spokesperson said.

"The Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops and we will make this mandatory from July 24," the spokesperson said.

Boris Johnson's decision to make face masks mandatory in shops descended into chaos and confusion on Tuesday as businesses called the plan 'utterly ludicrous' and police said they will find it 'impossible' to hand out £100 fines to those flouting the rules from July 24, according to Daily Mail report.

Jools Cardozo, who runs Farringdon and Forbes Home Interiors in Leamington Spa, said, ‘Our high streets are near deserted, businesses are being forced to close and now the government wants to tighten that last nail in the coffin by imposing that all shoppers wear face masks! How utterly ludicrous. I am all for the safety of my staff and customers but imposing this on a random future date screams of desperation,’ reports Daily Mail.

The decision will be fully outlined by UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock in a House of Commons statement following days of conflicting statements from Cabinet ministers. The confirmation follows Johnson's intervention over the issue on Monday, when he called on people to wear masks while the government considers enforcement measures.

"I think people should be wearing [face masks] in shops. And, in terms of how we do that, whether we make it mandatory or not, we'll be looking at the guidance - we'll be seeing a little bit more in the next few days," he had said.

The Opposition Labour Party, which has been in favour of stricter enforcement of face coverings as a measure to curb the transmission of coronavirus, had called for more clarity after some contrary messages on compulsory face coverings.

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