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Brits may have to wear face masks in public until vaccine is found

People wearing masks
Masks may remain compulsory until a vaccine is found – which could be at least until 2021 (Picture: PA)

Face coverings may remain mandatory in shops and other public places until a coronavirus vaccine is found.

Government sources have warned masks will be part of the ‘new normal’ for Brits as the country gets through the pandemic in the coming months.

And the development of a successful vaccine is unlikely to be completed until mid-2021.

A Cabinet source told the Mirror: ‘We are not doing this with a timeline in mind. This is part of the new normal.

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‘Until we get a vaccine we are going to have to be doing a lot of these things.

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‘We are not going to be doing this for a few weeks and then giving up. It’s part of a wider package of measures, such as social distancing.’

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Matt Hancock couldn’t tell us how long we’ll need to be wearing face masks but they should be honest with the public and be clear that it’s likely to last for months until we find a vaccine or we are safely through the pandemic.’

It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed coverings over the nose and mouth would become mandatory inside shops and supermarkets in England from June 24, a week on Friday.

People wearing face masks in a shop
Face masks are set to become part of Britain’s ‘new normal’ heading into the future (Picture: PA)

He stated the nation ‘must keep our shopkeepers safe’ and work together to regain public confidence going into stores.

Face coverings have also been mandatory on public transport in the UK since mid-June.

The health secretary also hinted there could be a further extension to locations where face coverings must be worn, explaining the measures will be introduced ‘in chunks’.

Conservative MP James Davies, from the Vale of Clwyd in north Wales, asked if similar measures are expected for pubs and bars.

Mr Hancock replied: ‘We don’t anticipate that at this point. We of course keep all things under review but in the first instance the proposal, in the same way we brought this in on public transport and NHS last month, is to bring this in in chunks.’

Speaking in the Commons yesterday, he continued: ‘In recent weeks we have re-opened retail and footfall is rising. We want to give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protection for those who work in shops. Both of these can be done by the use of face coverings.

‘Sadly sales assistants, cashiers and security guards have suffered disproportionately in this crisis. The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75% higher amongst men and 60% higher amongst women than in the general population.’

Anyone who does not follow the guidance could face a fine of up to £100, and shop staff can refuse entry to people not wearing face masks and even call the police on those who do not comply with the new rules.

Children under the age of 11 and those with certain disabilities are exempt, while the liability to wear a mask lies with the individual.

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