Face masks will become mandatory again in stores and on public transport

Face covering will be made compulsory in shops and on public transport in England from next week, the Prime Minister said.

Boris Johnson confirmed the decision at a press conference called after the detection of two cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the UK.

The rules around face masks were relaxed in England in July.

The prime minister said hospitality will be exempt from the rule change, and further details will be outlined by the health secretary “within the next day or so”.

Speaking in Downing Street on Saturday night, he said: “On the face covers we look at retail and transport, just coming back to a position where you have to wear them in stores or on public transport. “

The change comes after two cases of Omicron both linked to southern Africa were discovered in Essex and Nottingham, and 10 countries, including South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, were placed on the UK Travel Red List.

Reacting to the news that face coverings will be mandatory in England again, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham tweeted: ‘It’s fair, but it shows why they shouldn’t have been relaxed. It will now be more difficult, and longer, to achieve compliance levels where we need them. “

Nottingham’s labor adviser Adele Williams said the city has been asking for “some time” to reinstate the rules on face masks.

She tweeted: “Finally, the government has seen fit to cover siding in crowded indoor environments. It was irresponsible to make it a matter of personal choice. We have been asking for a mask warrant for some time and we know Nottingham will be masquerading to stop the spread. “

Usdaw Secretary General Paddy Lillis said there was “no reason” the face coverings could not be kept in place when the government eased restrictions in July.

He said: “This about-face on basic and sane Covid measures and the various rules across the UK creates confusion, reduces compliance and can lead to conflict.

“Retail staff working with the public on a daily basis are deeply concerned about catching Covid-19 and the arrival of the Omicron variant is another concern.

“Wearing a face cover protects others, it shouldn’t be a personal preference, but a personal responsibility.

“The government needs to be clear and consistent about its mandatory nature and that traders are not required to enforce the law on face coverings.

Chief Science Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance joined the Prime Minister for the press briefing (Jeff Gilbert / The Daily Telegraph / PA)

“We ask the public to follow the rules and respect the traders, abuse is not part of their job. We continue to call on retail employers to maintain appropriate safety measures, ensuring they are followed consistently in every store. “

Association of Convenience Stores Managing Director James Lowman said: “We are helping retailers prepare for the change in face covering rules, but they are extremely concerned about customer abuse of their staff. who don’t want to wear face coverings in a store. .

“We will continue to urge stores to communicate the rules, but not challenge those who refuse to comply with the rules.”

Carol Popplestone, President of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is something we have already asked for and it should not have been a new variant that would force the Prime Minister to act.

“Nurses have already witnessed the devastating impact of delayed action and ministers must now be prepared to act immediately if further restrictions are needed. “

The Prime Minister was joined by England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, who told the press conference the UK may have to ‘face up’ the possibility of further measurements if the Omicron variant is highly transmissible.

Sir Patrick said: “I think we’ll get more information on transmissibility, we’ll get more information on the ability of vaccines to protect against the virus, but it’s going to take a little while.

“If it’s very transmissible and causes big leaks (of vaccine), then this is clearly a major problem that we have to deal with.”

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