WORKERS could be forced to wear face masks in the office as the Government faced heavy backlash over the delay in making them compulsory in shops.
The Environment Secretary refused to rule out making masks mandatory in offices as he tried to defend the failure bring in the measures sooner.
When asked if the mandatory mask rule would be extended to offices, George Eustice told BBC Radio 4: “At the moment we take one step at a time and we’ve taken the view in this next step that we should make it mandatory in retail environments.
“When it comes to workplace environments, because people are in the same company throughout the day, there are not lots of people coming through the venue as you have in a retail environment.
“The risk of transmission is therefore lower.”
Face masks will be mandatory in all shops from July 24 – people who ignore the rules will be handed £100 fines.
What has been announced:
- Face masks will be mandatory in all shops from July 24 – those that refuse will be fined £100
- People eating and drinking in restaurants and bars won’t have to wear masks
- The PM is facing massive backlash over not bringing in the policy sooner – and police have branded it unenforceable
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has been calling for mandatory face masks for months, slammed the PM for failing to make people feel “safer”.
He told Good Morning Britain: “I wish it had been brought in today rather than next Friday.
“This will help all of us be safer and could prevent a second wave that could have led to a second lockdown, which none of us wants.”
But Mr Eustice said the delay in the change was to give businesses time to prepare – despite guidance over masks being issued months ago.
He said: “Two things have been going on – evidence and understanding has been evolving, WHO changed its guidance back in June.
“We then loosened the lockdown and allowed more venues to open.
“We need to consider the mix of measures we have in place and control the virus.”
Studies have shown wearing masks has a significant effect on stopping people who are infected from infecting others and spreading the virus – sometimes without symptoms.
And other European countries such as Italy made face masks compulsory in all indoor spaces as they allowed shops and restaurants to reopen.
Mr Eustice said people won’t have to wear face masks to restaurants or bars – but would have to wear them at hairdressers.
The mixed messages over where to wear masks adds to the confusion which started last Friday, when Boris Johnson said he was looking at tightening up the rules to make sure that more people wear them.
But only days later, Michael Gove told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: “I don’t think mandatory, no, but I would encourage people to wear face masks where they are inside and mixing with others, and the ventilation isn’t as good.”
At the moment it’s only mandatory to wear a mask on public transport – like trains, planes, buses or trams.
Only a handful of fines have been dished out to people for not wearing them.
Police are also outraged – claiming they won’t be able to shoulder the responsibility to ensure people where masks, branding the policy “absurd”.
Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh told Radio 4: “Shopkeepers need to step up to the plate and take some responsibility. They can quite easily put signs up on their doors ‘No mask on, no entry, this is private property’.
“The second point is 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.
“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 aren’t wearing masks, it’s absolutely absurd.”