The government is considering making face masks mandatory in shops, Boris Johnson has indicated, as he was pictured wearing one in public for the first time.
“As we get the virus down, in the way that we have, and we stamp out local outbreaks in the way that we are, I do think we need to be stricter in insisting that people wear face coverings in confined places,” Johnson said during a Q&A session with voters on social media. “We’re looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings, in shops, for example.”
On Friday, face coverings became compulsory in Scottish shops, but people do not have to wear them in stores in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Johnson said new rules might be needed to overcome a lack of tradition around mask use. “It’s very interesting, because in places like China or Taiwan, the far east, they don’t actually have mandatory face coverings, it’s just part of the way they do things. Clearly we don’t have that culture here in the UK, and we have to think about how we make it happen and how we make it work.”
Masks are mandatory on public transport in England, and official guidancesays people should also wear them in shops and other enclosed spaces, but Johnson and his senior team have rarely been photographed wearing one.
The prime minister was seen publicly in a mask for the first time on Friday, donning a bright blue one in his Uxbridge constituency.
Senior scientists had urged ministers to wear masks in public more often to set a good example. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, was pictured without a mask while serving a meal to customers in a restaurant following his mini-budget this week, and he has also been photographed bumping elbows with people as a greeting.
Read more: Face masks could be mandatory in shops, signals Boris Johnson