MATT Hancock today urged shops to call the police on people not wearing masks – and people could be banned from entering them if they aren’t covered up.
Face masks must be worn in shops from July 24, the Government announced today.
Anyone refusing will be fined up to £100 as Boris Johnson looks to prevent a second coronavirus wave as lockdown restrictions are eased.
Health Secretary Mr Hancock confirmed the news in the House of Commons today, but insisted that shops won’t be able to enforce the rules by themselves.
Shopkeepers “can refuse entry” to people not wearing coverings and said police enforcement would be the “last resort”.
He told MPs: “Should an individual without an exemption refuse to wear a face covering, a shop can refuse them entry and can call the police if people refuse to comply.
“The police have formal enforcement powers and can issue a fine.”
He added: “There is also evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop.
“Face coverings can make shoppers feel even more confident about returning to the high street.”
They have a “part to play” in helping the nation recover and protecting shop workers, he added.
Downing Street stressed shop assistants would not have to enforce the policy from next Friday, and it was for police to enforce.
It came after the police warned earlier that the new rules would be near-impossible to monitor.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in London, warned over the law’s enforcement as he called for shopkeepers to “step up to the plate and take some responsibility”.
“It will be nigh-on impossible for enforcement because you won’t have a police officer on every shop door because there isn’t enough of us,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“If a shopkeeper calls the police because someone hasn’t got a mask on, they haven’t got the power to detain them so that person can just walk away.
“We’ll be driving around and around London looking for people who weren’t wearing masks, it’s absolutely absurd.”
Kids under 11 and those with disabilities will be exempt.
The PM spoke out ahead of today’s announcement that masks will be compulsory in stores from July 24.
He said: “I do think in shops it is very important to wear a face covering if you are going to be in a confined space.
“You want to protect other people and receive protection in turn.
“Face coverings — I think people should be wearing them in shops.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice tried to defend the delay on bringing in face masks saying the evidence on them had changed, despite many European countries making them mandatory months ago.
He told Sky News: “There are two things that have been going on – the evidence and understanding has been evolving, WHO changed its guidance back in June.
“As we loosen the lockdown and allow more venues to open. We need to consider the mix of measures we have in place and control the virus.
“All shops, all enclosed spaces, supermarkets, if people go into retail environments, staff generally already wear masks or visor shields.
Staff generally already wear masks.
“Retailers have gone to great lengths, don’t think it’s unreasonable to now ask the public to take that step.”
He said the new rules wouldn’t come into force for another 10 days to give shops and businesses time to prepare.
The PM said he changed his mind over the value of masks in stopping the spread of Covid-19 after scientific advice “shifted in favour of them”.