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Face masks and coverings are compulsory in enclosed public spaces including supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, transport hubs, banks and post offices. They must also be worn when buying takeaway food and drink, although they can be removed in a seating area. People who break the rules could be fined up to £100, and police are able to “use force” to remove customers from shops if they refuse to wear one, as well as preventing them from entering, according to guidance from the College of Policing.
When can we stop wearing face masks?
Face masks and coverings are likely to remain compulsory in shops and public transport until a vaccine is found, which could be next year at the very earliest.
Government insiders have suggested masks are a part of the “new normal” until Britain has safely navigated itself out of the coronavirus pandemic.
They warned face coverings could be required until scientists developed a successful vaccine which is highly unlikely to happen before mid-2021.
One Cabinet source said: “We are not doing this with a timeline in mind. This is part of the new normal.
“Until we get a vaccine we are going to have to be doing a lot of these things.
“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.”
Another Government source added: “I don’t think anybody can know how long it will be but you have to assume we will be wearing masks for a while.”
Experts have warned face coverings should be in place in Britain until coronavirus is completely gone, meaning we are down to a consistently low daily death toll.
Dr David Strain, lecturer at Exeter University and chair of the British Medical Association’s Medical Academic Staff Committee said masks are essential to making life safer.
He said: “We need masks to slow the spread and make life safer for the most vulnerable to go about essential activities.
“Yesterday, more than 500 people tested positive for the virus, which the ONS figures suggest is only about a third of the true number of new cases in the UK.
“The remaining two-thirds of the population with the virus are the ‘silent spreaders’, people who carry and can potentially spread the virus despite having no symptoms themselves.
“The mandatory use of face coverings will reduce the risk to the population at large from these individuals.”
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Dr Strain explained that incidence rates need to fall to one new case per million per day before masks can be safely removed.
Dr Julian Tang, a respiratory scientist at Leicester University, said: “Most of the world’s population is still susceptible to the virus, and we are still not sure how long any post-infection immunity will last.
“So if people can get used to all these precautions now, it will reduce the numbers of COVID-19 deaths over a longer-term.”
The news comes as scientists warned that Britain could see as many as 120,000 new coronavirus deaths during the winter flu season, if there are to be no more lockdowns, treatments or vaccines.
If this were to happen, it will likely be the case hospitals are overwhelmed during an already-busy season.
The report, commissioned by Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, found a “reasonable”: worst case scenario could see between 24,500 and 251,000 virus-related deaths in hospitals alone, peaking in January and February.
Mr Hancock told MPs he believes face masks and coverings in shops will give the public “more confidence” to shop as the Government tries to revive the economy.
Deaths among shop workers were 75 percent higher for men and 60 percent higher for women than among the general public, prompting the need for better protections in retail workplaces, said Mr Hancock.
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