Infrastructure minister backs compulsory wearing of face coverings in shops
A STORMONT minister has backed the use of face coverings in shops following the announcement the measure will become mandatory in England.
Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon, who successfully lobbied for the compulsory wearing of masks on public transport in Northern Ireland, yesterday expressed her support for the measure.
In England, the new rule for shoppers will come into force from July 24. Those who fail to comply will face a fine of up to £100. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.
Ms Mallon said if the science supports mask use on public transport, that should be extended to shops.
When asked if health minister Robin Swann endorsed the measure, a Department of Health spokeswoman said:
"The use of face coverings is now mandatory on public transport, except where an exemption applies. They are also strongly recommended in indoor environments where social distancing may be difficult.
"The Executive keeps the issue of face coverings under continuous review and any changes to the advice will be communicated to the public."
Scotland and other major European countries including Spain, Italy and Germany have already made the wearing of face coverings in shops and supermarkets compulsory.
Experts say cloth face coverings can help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by containing droplets from people who could be infected with the virus.
Enforcement of the regulations in England will be the responsibility of the police.
While shop workers will be asked to encourage compliance, retailers and businesses will not be expected to enforce them.
Meanwhile, a leading doctor has said he is "fairly confident" that most people will be using face masks in Northern Ireland soon.
"Science leads this for the Department of Health," Dr Tom Black of the British Medical Association told BBC Radio Foyle.
"There is less speed on this than we would've expected, but it's going in the right direction."
In the Republic, a public awareness campaign encouraging more people to voluntarily wear non-medical masks was launched last month.
On Monday, strict regulations to enforce the compulsory wearing of face coverings on public transport in the south came into effect with fines of up to €2,500 and/or six months in prison for those who flouted the law.
In Northern Ireland, exemptions in relation to the public transport measure apply to children under the age of 13 or if you have a specific medical or health reason.
Meanwhile, a charity has raised concerns about the impact of mandatory rules on face masks for deaf people who rely on lip reading.
Chime, the National Charity for Deafness and Hearing Loss in the Republic, said the new measures impact on over 300,000 people and have called for healthcare workers in particular to consider wearing face shields as opposed to face coverings.