New Covid variant prompts change to face mask rules in shops

Shoppers in England will be expected to wear face coverings in shops from Tuesday 30 November to help prevent the spread of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant.

The change in the rules brings England into line with the rest of the UK, where mask wearing in stores is still required.

Face masks will also be mandatory on public transport, and all travellers arriving into the UK will have to take a PCR test on or before day 2 and self isolate until they have received a negative test result.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents the retail industry, asked customers to “respect the rules and be considerate to their fellow shoppers and to hard-working shop staff”.

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of shop workers’ union Usdaw, warned that the fluctuating rules could lead to conflict in stores, BBC News reported.

“There is no reason why, when lifting other Covid restrictions in England, the government could not have kept the requirement to wear a face covering in busy public places, like shops and public transport,” he said.

“This flip-flopping on basic and sensible Covid measures and the different rules across the UK create confusion, reduce compliance and can lead to conflict.”

Asked whether shoppers in England could face fines if they fail to comply with the rules, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It will be a legal requirement by government regulation to wear masks in shops and public transport.”