British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the wearing of face masks in shops will be made complsory next week and that anyone who refuses will face a £100 fine.
The new measure applies to England and Wales. Whitehall insiders say that responsibility for enforcing the rule will lie with the police.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops and we will make this mandatory from July 24.”
Johnson’s announcement comes after cabinet minister Michael Gove insisted yesterday that wearing face masks in shops would be a matter of ‘courtesy’ rather than required by law
RT reports: Scotland has already made face coverings mandatory.
“How can anyone respect this government or follow their diktats?”wondered commentator and RT columnist Neil Clark, pointing out that on Sunday, Cabinet Office Minister Gove was saying the exact opposite.
“I don’t think mandatory, no,” Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr, adding he would “encourage” people to mask up inside, as that was “basic good manners, courtesy and consideration” in protecting others from the coronavirus.
Clark also highlighted the irony of a German supermarket chain Lidl offering the “first proper resistance to the tyrannical ‘New Normal’” by saying it won’t enforce the face mask mandate in Scotland – and presumably in England and Wales once it goes into effect.
The opposition Labour Party was also displeased but for different reasons, criticizing Johnson for not mandating masks when it advised in favor of wearing them back in May, and “why it’ll take another 11 days before these new guidelines come into force,” according to the party’s health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has criticized Johnson’s coronavirus response as “slow,” saying that the PM is “good on the rhetoric but he is not good on governing.” Starmer said there will inevitably be an inquiry into Downing Street’s handling of the pandemic.
The mask mandate is not the first time the Johnson cabinet has indulged in mixed messaging. Their initial strategy was reportedly to let the virus spread to generate “herd immunity,” before suddenly reversing course and imposing a lockdown on March 23. Johnson himself was sidelined for several weeks after contracting the virus in April.
The PM then urged Britons to go out and enjoy themselves in nature, only to threaten to close the beaches at the end of June amid a new spike in cases. This caused an uproar among the general public, with many noting that the police wasn’t nowhere near that zealous in cracking down on illegal parties, or mass protests in London and several other cities.