Boris Johnson has given his strongest hint yet that face coverings may be made mandatory in English shops, saying said he is looking at ways to be “stricter” about their use.
The comment came as Mr Johnson signalled an apparent shift in government on the return to normal life, saying people should “go back to work if they can”. The government has previously said that people should work from home if it is possible.
In a clear sign that the government believes it is now necessary to encourage people to end their four months of working from home, Mr Johnson added: “I want people to go back to work as carefully as possible.
“It is very important that people should be going back to work if they can. Everybody has taken the ‘stay at home if you can’ (message). I think we should now say go back to work if you can, because it’s very important that people should try to lead their lives more normally.
“I want to see more people feeling confident to use shops and use restaurants and get back to work, but only if we all follow the guidance.”
Passengers on public transport are already required to cover their mouths and noses to limit the chance of spreading coronavirus, but the UK government has so far stopped short of following Scotland by requiring the use of masks in retail premises south of the border.
But the prime minister told a social media “People’s PMQs” he was actively considering tightening the rules in England as the lockdown is lifted and infection numbers decrease.
Asked whether shoppers in England could be told they must cover their faces, Mr Johnson said: “As we get the numbers down in the way we have and we stamp out local outbreaks in the way that we are, I do think we need to be stricter about insisting people wear face coverings in confined places where they are meeting people they don’t normally meet. That is why it is mandatory already on public transport.
“We are looking at ways we an ensure people really do have face coverings in shops, where there is a risk of transmission.