Failing to comply with this rule could result in a fine of up to £100, health secretary Matt Hancock said, announcing the measure in parliament today (July 14).
The DH told C+D that, as part of this, wearing a face covering will be mandatory for visitors to community pharmacies.
While children under 11 and people with “certain disabilities” are exempt from this measure – just as on public transport – staff will be able to deny entry to people refusing to wear a face covering “if they are not exempt, and call the police if people refuse to comply”, Mr Hancock said.
He added that fines will be imposed as “a last resort” and the government “fully expect[s] the public to comply with these rules, as they’ve done throughout the pandemic”.
“As we restore shopping, so we must keep our shop keepers safe,” Mr Hancock said, continuing to say that “there is also evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop”.
“We’ve therefore come to the decision that face coverings should be mandatory in shops and supermarkets,” he added.
"Plan and prepare"
The new rule will not come into force until next Friday, July 24, to give people “time to plan and prepare”, and “for retailers to maybe put in place measures to encourage people to do this [wear masks] or potentially have some masks themselves if people haven’t got one,” environment secretary George Eustice told the BBC Breakfast programme today.
“I suspect that now that we’ve made this announcement, a lot of people will start wearing a mask even though it will not be mandatory until [July] 24,” he said.
Explaining why the government has decided to make the wearing of face masks in shops compulsory at this relatively late stage, Mr Eustice said one of the reasons was the change in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) stance on face coverings.
It was only in June that the WHO started advising people to wear a face covering “when out and about, because it could prevent the onward transmission, so we changed our guidance to that point”, Mr Eustice said.
People are not currently required to wear a face covering when visiting pharmacies, although the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) has been advising the public to wear one in enclosed spaces.
Since June 15, it has been mandatory for the public to wear a face covering on public transport and when going to hospital, but not in pharmacies, despite calls from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
The move announced today puts England in line with Scotland, where those visiting pharmacies have been required to wear a face covering since last week (July 10).