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Shop staff will not be required to wear face coverings when the new measure is introduced for shoppers in England next week, a minister has said.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said the rules for shoppers, which means anyone who fails to comply with the order could face a fine of up to £100, will not be enforced until July 24 to give people time to prepare, including retailers.

But Mr Eustice said shop staff are “not being covered” by the rule.

Asked if the rules will apply to supermarket staff, he said: “They’re not being covered by this.

“But I think if you go into most shops you will see that staff for a longer time now have either been wearing face shields or face masks.

“It won’t be a compulsory requirement because it won’t always be right for every setting in a retail environment, particularly those working behind the tills and so on.”

The minister defended the delay to ordering the mandatory use of face coverings in shops in England.

“The evidence, the understanding, has been evolving,” he told Sky News. “So the World Health Organisation changed their guidance back in June and following that the Government changed its guidance and we recommended that people wear face coverings in enclosed spaces when they’re out and about.

“We then sharpened that and made it compulsory for public transport in the middle of June and what we’ve really got here is, as we loosen the lockdown and allow more venues to open, we need to consider the mix of measures we have in place to limit the transmission and control the virus. And that’s why we’re making this next step, which is to say it’s mandatory to wear masks in retail environments.”

Mr Eustice also said ministers had wanted to give people in England time to prepare, telling BBC Breakfast: “We want to give people time to plan and prepare and for retailers to maybe put in place measures to encourage people to do this or potentially even to have some masks themselves if people haven’t got one.”

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