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28th Nov 2021

Face masks to be compulsory in England from Tuesday

Steve Hopkins

Sajid Javid said people should ‘continue with their plans as normal for Christmas’

Face masks will be compulsory in shops and on public transport in England from Tuesday, the health secretary confirmed on Sunday as the government rolls out measures to combat the Omicron variant.

The rule, part of a raft of changes set out at a Downing Street press conference on Saturday, brings England in line with other parts of the UK.

Read more: Boris Johnson announces raft of new measures as two cases of Omicron variant detected in UK

Wearing face masks in shops and on public transport stopped being a legal requirement in England on July 19.

Sajid Javid, speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, said people who now refuse to wear masks will be hit with new sanctions.

Marr asked: “This is a new rule which is in place now and people who don’t obey that, people who go into shops without masks can be fined, will be fined?”

Javid attempted to swerve the question but was pressed again: “Are you insisting as a government that everybody going into a shop wears a mask. And are you going to take sanctions on people who refuse to?”

“Yes, it will be a legal requirement by government regulations to wear masks in shops and public transport,” Javid replied.

The health secretary defended not making mask-wearing compulsory in bars.

Boris Johnson on Saturday announced that PCR tests would be required for all overseas arrivals. The red list was also extended from six to 10 countries with arrivals needing to quarantine for 10 days. MPs are due to vote on confirming the measures after they come into force.

According to a message on the passenger locator form section of the government’s website, testing and self-isolation requirements will change for people travelling into the UK from 4am on Tuesday.

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Javid earlier told Sky News the actions being taken were “proportionate and balanced”, and he hoped they could be lifted “within weeks”.

Javid told Trevor Phillips On Sunday it would be “irresponsible to make guarantees” but said the measures announced this week in reaction to the Omicron variant will “buy us time” to enable scientists to assess it.

“People should continue with their plans as normal for Christmas, I think it’s going to be a great Christmas,” he said, however he added that it would be “irresponsible” to make guarantees about Christmas.

“I think it’s going to be a great Christmas,” he said. The health secretary said tighter rules on testing for overseas arrivals would be implemented “as soon as possible” with the agreement of the UK’s four nations.

Javid said he did not think stricter measures needed to be imposed just yet as social distancing and work from home directives “carry a very heavy price, economically, socially, in terms of non-Covid health outcomes”.

“If one was to make decisions like that they’d have to be made very very carefully, we’re not there yet, we’re nowhere near that,” he added.

Johnson announced the new measures after it was confirmed that two Omicron cases had been detected in Brentwood, Essex, and Nottingham. Officials said the cases were linked and connected to travel in southern Africa, where the new variant was first identified.