Boris Johnson is expected to set out a fresh “road map” for his long-term Covid-19 strategy on Friday, when he will give new details of how the country will get back to work without risking a second spike.
The new laws on face masks in shops were unveiled on Tuesday amid growing confusion over the Government’s strategy, with even senior Cabinet ministers apparently at odds over the wearing of masks.
That was exemplified by Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who bought food from a branch of Pret a Manger without covering his face despite telling the public it was “good sense” and “good manners” to do so.
His Cabinet colleague Liz Truss did wear a face covering when she bought food from the same branch, and the restaurant chain itself said it had no idea whether the new face covering rule would apply to it.
Mr Johnson has faced a growing backlash from his own MPs and ministers over the decision to force people to wear masks in shops, and on Tuesday a row broke out between retailers and Matt Hancock over a claim by the Health Secretary that deaths among shop staff had been “disproportionately” high.
Mr Hancock told the Commons that Covid-19 deaths among male sales and retail assistants were 75 per cent higher than the average, and 60 per cent for female retail workers, but Archie Norman, the Marks & Spencer chairman, said that claim was incorrect.
Mr Norman added that he was concerned Mr Hancock’s statement “will make it less likely that people feel comfortable being in shops in the short-term”.