After accusations of mixed messages from the government, new guidance is issued ahead of the law changing.
Wearing a face covering will be mandatory in shops and other public spaces across England from Friday to stop the spread of coronavirus.
People will also have to wear a mask, scarf or bandana that covers the nose and mouth in shopping centres and indoor transport hubs, like bus and train stations.
When it comes to buying food, the law will depend on where you’re eating it.
Face coverings will not be mandatory in pubs and restaurants.
But they will be to order food from a cafe. If you are eating in, you will be allowed to remove the covering in the area dedicated to eat or drink what you’ve purchased.
The government has been accused of sending mixed messages in recent days with conflicting advice and examples from ministers – for example Michael Gove deciding not to wear a mask in Pret but the chancellor doing so.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said on Thursday there had been “some confusion” and “greater clarity” is needed.
But he added: “I think it’s very important as leader of the opposition that I say clearly we must follow the government’s advice.
“It’s very important that where the advice is to wear the mask we should all do it.”
Speaking on Sky News’ Kay Burley@Breakfast show, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis confirmed masks must be worn when visiting sandwich shops if taking away.
“If you are going into Pret a Manger, and you are eating in Pret a Manger, which in some of their stores you can, then obviously you wouldn’t be wearing a face mask because you’re eating.
“But it’s clear, good common sense that if you are going in to buy a takeaway and you’re leaving again, you’re treating it like a shop and you should be wearing a face mask”, he said.
Announcing the latest guidance, the Department of Health and Social care said: “There is evidence to suggest that, when used correctly, face coverings may reduce the likelihood of someone with the infection passing it on to others, particularly if they are asymptomatic.”
Those who fail to follow the new law could be fined up to £100 – brought down to £50 if paid within fortnight.
Children under 11 and those with disabilities are exempt, and people can remove face coverings for valid reasons like being asked to do so in a bank or to prove their identity if buying age-restricted products.
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Places where face coverings will remain discretionary include:
- Hairdressers and close contact servicesEat-in restaurants, cafes and pubs. Face coverings will be required in cafes or take-away restaurants that do not provide table service, other than in designated seating areas.Entertainment venues, including cinemas, concert halls and theatresVisitor attractions (such as heritage sites or museums)Gyms and leisure centres
But it remains unclear how strictly the new law will be enforced.
Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has already said they will not challenge customers who enter their stores without a mask.
Head of the Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick has said officers should only be called for someone failing to wear a face covering as “a last resort”.
And police and crime commissioners for Thames Valley, Devon and Cornwall have said their officers will not attend incidents where shoppers refuse to wear masks, unless they turn violent.
Wearing face coverings in shops is already mandatory in Scotland.