- Health Secretary Matt Hancock struggled to explain new rules on wearing masks coming in from July 24
- Shoppers not wearing face masks likely to be refused service and could face a £100 fine under new system
- Mr Hancock said masks will be need for ‘foreseeable future’ but denied they will be compulsory in offices
The government’s face mask rules descended further into confusion today as Matt Hancock insisted they must be worn to get takeaway coffee but not in pubs – and denied that they will be compulsory in offices.
The Health Secretary struggled to explain the new system coming into force from July 24 amid warnings from police that it will be completely unenforceable.
Shown pictures of Cabinet colleagues Michael Gove and Liz Truss emerging from the same Pret outlet in London yesterday, the former bare faced while and the latter wearing a mask – Mr Hancock said the rules were not in place yet.
But he got into a muddle as he tried to explain why coffee shops were different from pubs, suggesting that going to the bar is not allowed under current advice. In fact ordering drinks at the bar is permitted where it is ‘unavoidable’.
Mr Hancock also denied speculation that Boris Johnson wants to make masks compulsory in offices as part of a drive to convince workers to return.
Mr Gove finally fell into line today by wearing an NHS-branded face covering in Whitehall – having sparked chaos at the weekend by publicly making clear he did not think they should be required by law.
Meanwhile, official guidance published by the government overnight has raised fresh doubts about how it can be policed. Despite the threat of £100 fines, the document says people can have a ‘legitimate’ excuse for not wearing a face covering if it causes them ‘distress’.
Amid growing disquiet at Labour’s refusal to take a position on a host of key issues, Sir Keir Starmer also ignored the issue of masks entirely at PMQs.