Boris Johnson hints that face masks may soon be required in shops

John Lewis Face masks

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hinted at the introduction of stricter rules on the wearing of face coverings, for instance in shops, as he shifted his message from “stay at home if you can” to “go back to work if you can”.

In an online question and answer session with the public, Johnson said that after months of lockdown people should “try to lead their lives more normally” but said that wider use of face coverings in confined spaces might be necessary as people come in to more contact with people they don’t know.

“I want people to go back to work as carefully as possible. It’s very important that people should be going back to work if they can now.

“I think everybody has sort of taken the ‘stay at home if you can’ – I think we should now say, well, ‘go back to work if you can’. Because I think it’s very important that people should try to lead their lives more normally.

“I want to see more people feeling confident to use the shops, use the restaurants, and get back into work – but only if we all follow the guidance,” he said.

He said that people should only return to work where companies are obeying the guidance to ensure that it is safe.

“I do think we need to be stricter in insisting people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don’t normally meet,” he said.

“We are looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops, for instance, where there is a risk of transmission.”

Face coverings are currently compulsory on public transport and in hospitals in England, but are only advised in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible and where “you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet”.

In Scotland, people are legally obliged to wear face coverings inside shops and on public transport. It is understood that the issue is being looked at inside Number 10.