Who does and doesn’t have to wear face coverings in shops?

Face coverings must be worn in shops from July 24, or you may face a fine. Picture: Andrew Milligan/

Face coverings must be worn in shops from July 24, or you may face a fine. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Images - Credit: Archant

A range of anomalies have emerged over the new rules on face coverings following the government’s announcement this week that it is now mandatory to cover your face in shops and supermarkets.

The headline of the announcement was that everyone must now wear a face covering – however shop staff are exempt as well as children aged 10 years old or younger, and those with “certain disabilities.”

Environment secretary George Eustice said while the mandatory use of face masks in England would apply to “all shops”, they would not be compulsory in cafes, pubs and restaurants.

He said: “We’re not for instance mandating the wearing of masks in pubs and restaurants, because obviously people have got to eat.

“We’ve been evolving the measures we’ve had as we come out of lockdown and we’ve been strengthening the guidance progressively on masks making it mandatory first on public transport, and now we’re going to that next step to make it mandatory in retail environments.”

In relation to shop staff, Mr Eustice said: “They’re not being covered by this but I think if you go into most shops you will see that staff for a longer time now have either been wearing face shields or face masks.

“It won’t be a compulsory requirement because it won’t always be right for every setting in a retail environment, particularly those working behind the tills and so on.”

Most Read

When the law comes into force the burden of enforcing it will fall upon the police, though forces are not yet sure what their exact role would be.

Those who flout the new rule could face a fine of £100, which would be halved if paid within 14 days.

Urging the public to “play their part and to abide by these restrictions”, Mr Eustice said retailers and shoppers have responsibilities before the police will be asked to step in.

“Of course retailers have been very responsible in the way they’re approaching this challenge, they will have a role to play in making sure there’s compliance.

“But when it comes to that final sanction of issuing a penalty, that is something only the police can do.”

The British Retail Consortium have welcomed the “clarity” on the use of face coverings. “This will give us a level of reassurance,” chief executive Helen Dickinson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Clarity is really important to give people that confidence. It is absolutely true that sales and footfall are returning only very slowly to our high streets and town centres and shopping centres up and down the country.”