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Coronavirus: Labour calls for clarity over face coverings in England

Labour is calling for the government to clarify its position on face coverings, after the PM said a “stricter” approach to their use in England was needed.

Senior sources have said the government is considering making face coverings mandatory in shops in England to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Face coverings have been compulsory in shops in Scotland since Friday.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said “strong and clear guidance” was needed.

It came as Mr Johnson was pictured wearing a face covering for the first time while visiting businesses in his Uxbridge constituency on Friday.

The UK government was initially hesitant – in the early days of the coronavirus crisis – about advising people to wear face coverings, arguing the scientific evidence that they reduce transmission was “weak”.

However, rules compelling people to wear face masks on public transport in England were introduced on 15 June.

And on Friday Mr Johnson said “the balance of scientific opinion seems to have shifted more in favour of them than it was, and we’re very keen to follow that”.

He told a Facebook Q&A with the public: “I do think we need to be stricter in insisting people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don’t normally meet.

“We are looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops, for instance, where there is a risk of transmission.”

Mr Ashworth said it was “welcome” ministers were looking again at the evidence on face masks.

“We urge ministers to conclude this review rapidly to provide the strong and clear guidance needed,” he wrote on Twitter.

Shadow exchequer secretary Wes Streeting said it was “not helpful” for the prime minister to do a photo shoot wearing a face mask until there was more clarity over when they should be worn.

“At the moment people are hearing different messages from different quarters,” the Labour MP told BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions.

Tory MP and former cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom told the programme she did not want masks to be mandatory but “people should be considerate of others” and start to think about carrying one wherever they go.  Read more 

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