Another example of Government indecisiveness as Boris Johnson dithers over face masks. Michael Gove demonstrates his libertarian tendencies by saying that wearing them should not be compulsory, but then claims good manners means masks should be worn.
We have been here before when Boris Johnson dithered over introducing lockdown. Dithering costs lives. – Owl
Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to force people to wear face coverings in shops.
He has resisted calls so far despite admitting the evidence for such a move was growing.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said it should be voluntary, while trying to guilt-trip people into wearing them in shops.
Sources think a switch in the rules could be announced this week.
It comes as the UK’s Covid-19 death toll rose yesterday by 21 to 44,819.
Labour has called on Mr Johnson to make face coverings compulsory in shops in England – as they are on public transport.
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Rachel Reeves told the BBC: “I think that would be a sensible way forward. People are increasingly wearing them but greater clarity from Government about that would be helpful.
“People want to do the right thing but they want to know what the right thing is.
“I think it would inspire greater confidence and might encourage more people to go out and spend money if they see more people wearing face masks in shops.”
Mr Gove stopped short of saying they should be compulsory, but claimed good manners meant masks should be worn.
He said: “I would encourage people to wear face masks when they’re inside in an environment where they’re likely to be mixing with others and where the ventilation may not be as good as it might.
“I think that it is basic good manners, courtesy, consideration to wear a face mask if you are, for example, in a shop.”
He added: “The Government at all times does look at the evidence about what the best way to control the disease is… My view is it’s always better to trust people’s common sense.”
Paddy Lillis, chief of shop workers’ union Usdaw, said: “It should never fall on shop workers to enforce the wearing of face coverings. They are dealing with more abuse than normal and this could be another flashpoint.”
Beauty salons and spas are among the places that can reopen from today.
Face masks are due to become mandatory at almost all times in public in the Balearic Islands from today, with fines of about £90.
Elsewhere in Spain, British tourists are also likely to have to adhere to similar tougher restrictions in Andalucia this week.
Meanwhile, Mr Gove echoed the PM’s call for people to return to work if they can. He said it was crucial to “fire up the economic engines”.
TUC chief Frances O’Grady said: “The worry is the Government is being driven by, ‘How do we get people using restaurants and bars?’. For that we need people currently working at home to get back into town centres.
“The more you relax lockdown, the tougher you have to be on public transport to make sure we don’t end up going back to square one with local outbreaks that get out of control.”
A list of 20 hot spot areas has been drawn up by the Government amid fears they will be forced back into lockdown like Leicester.
Two – Ashford and Folkestone – are in Kent, but the rest are in the North and the Midlands. Kirklees and Bradford in West Yorkshire have been targeted for “enhanced support”. Blackburn, Rochdale, Oldham, Rotherham and Barnsley are also of “concern”.
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel fears authorities may have avoided tackling illegal sweatshops in Britain’s fast-fashion industry over worries they would be accused of racism.
There are suspicions virus cases in Leicester were fuelled by exploited staff in the city’s textile factories working when ill.