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London 'not ready' for local coronavirus lockdown, warns mayor

London is “not ready” for a local coronavirus lockdown, the capital’s mayor has warned.

Sadiq Khan told Sky News he was waiting for the government to provide “clarity” on what powers and resources he would be given to enforce localised restrictions if they become necessary.

Last month, the UK’s first full local lockdown was announced in Leicester as part of the government’s “whack-a-mole” strategy to deal with local flare-ups in COVID-19 infections.

London ‘not ready’ for local lockdowns

Shops and schools were closed in the Midlands city, while the reopening of pubs and restaurants did not take place in line with the rest of England.

Asked about the possibility of similar action being taken within London’s 32 boroughs, Mr Khan told Sky News’ Kay Burley @ Breakfast show: “At the moment we’re not ready.

“I’ve been lobbying the government for them to provide clarity in relation to the powers and resources we have to enforce a local lockdown.

“I think it would be possible to have a lockdown based upon a specific building, a factory, a school, a place of worship.

More from Covid-19

“It would be very difficult at the moment, because of the lack of clarity, to have a local lockdown based on a geographical area.”

The London mayor described the Leicester lockdown as a “case study” in “how not to respond to a situation”.

How many cases of COVID-19 where I live?

How many cases of COVID-19 where I live?

“We had examples, we were told, of people in Leicester being able to leave Leicester and go to other cities when the pubs began to reopen,” Mr Khan said.

“The government’s got to use this opportunity, we’ve got time, to make sure they provide clarity on what the powers are, what the resources are, in relation to enforcing – heaven forbid – a local lockdown should it be required.”

Mr Khan welcomed the government’s announcement that the wearing of face coverings in shops and supermarkets will be mandatory in England from 24 July.

But he questioned why the action wasn’t being taken immediately, adding: “It’s really important, now that the infection rate appears to be lower, the R number appears to be lower, now is the time to make sure we have all the steps in place to avoid a second wave and, certainly, avoid the need for a second lockdown.”

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Meanwhile, Labour shadow health minister Justin Madders has written to Baroness Dido Harding, who chairs the government’s test and trace programme, to call for councils to receive daily data on coronavirus infections in their local areas.

“Councils are getting testing data which is sometimes nearly a fortnight old and has such little information in it that it is virtually useless in being able to spot and stop local outbreaks,” Mr Madders said.

“We are asking that positive test results are given to councils on a daily basis, in real time if possible, and that there should be sufficient information for them to be able to identify the workplace if possible, where an outbreak has occurred.

“The government needs to be much more open and transparent with local councils so that together we can catch local outbreaks earlier and stop transmission of the virus.”

Johnny Depp security guard recalls actor's distress after slicing open his finger

A member of Johnny Depp’s security team has told the High Court he was contacted to “extract the boss” from an argument with Amber Heard in Australia, and that the star was “panicking” as his finger had been sliced open.

Malcolm Connolly, who has worked for the Hollywood star and his family for about 16 years, is giving evidence on day six of the actor’s high-profile libel action against the publishers of The Sun.

He told the court in London he never saw Depp hitting Heard, and that he would never tolerate a man hitting a woman, even if he was “the Pope” and despite the actor being his boss.

Image: The court has previously been shown this picture of Depp after injuring his finger

What Heard has described as a “three-day hostage situation” in Australia in March 2015 is one of 14 allegations of violent behaviour against Depp, who has previously told the court his finger was wounded when his then wife threw a vodka bottle at him.

Giving evidence, Mr Connolly said that when he arrived at the rented house the couple were staying in, while Depp was filming a Pirates Of The Caribbean film in Australia, he could hear a “ruckus” and the actor was in a state of distress.

In his witness statement, Connolly said that Depp told him: “Look at my finger.

“She’s cut my f***ing finger off. She’s smashed my hand with a vodka bottle.”

More from Johnny Depp

Mr Connolly said Depp also told him that Heard had put a cigarette out on his face, and he saw a mark.

He said that he did not see any injuries on the actress.

Actor Amber Heard waves as she arrives at the High Court in London, Britain July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Image: Amber Heard pictured arriving at court on Tuesday morning

Mr Connolly said he got to the property at about 1.30pm after receiving an urgent call from the late Jerry Judge, the head of Depp’s security team at the time, who told him: “Malcolm, get in the car, extract the boss from the situation.”

He continued: “I could hear the ruckus inside. I opened the door, which wasn’t locked, and saw Johnny in the foyer area of the house.”

The security guard said that Depp and Heard were “screaming at each other”.

When Mr Connolly got Depp out of the house, he said: “I had the car door open and when we were outside Johnny said to me words to the effect of, ‘Look at my finger. She’s cut my f***ing finger off. She’s smashed my hand with a vodka bottle’.

“I saw his finger and it was a mess.”

Depp denies allegations of violence against him. The trial continues.

Coronavirus contact tracers in England 'locked out of accounts'

Contact tracers in England have been locked out of their work accounts this morning, preventing them from reaching people who could have contracted coronavirus, Sky News understands.

A Tier 2 COVID-19 contact tracer has told Sky News that anyone whose Amazon Web Services (AWS) account was activated on 13 May has been unable to log in.

AWS provides the infrastructure for the coronavirus test and trace system being used in England, which was set up by NHS England and customer management business Sitel.

Sky News has contacted Sitel and Public Health England for comment.

Image: People contacted by contact tracers are supposed to self-isolate

Revealed: The inside story of how UK's 'chaotic' testing regime 'broke all the rules'

Revealed: The inside story of how UK’s ‘chaotic’ testing regime ‘broke all the rules’

It is not known how many contact tracers have been affected by the sudden expiration of their passwords, but a contact tracer who spoke to NHS Professionals was told: “A lot of workers have contacted us about this.”

NHS Professionals is a staffing agency that supplies tens of thousands of doctors and nurses to UK hospitals.

At the service’s launch on 27 May, the government said it had 25,000 contact tracers ready to go.

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These tracers are split into tiers:

  • Tier 3 workers are call handlers who don’t have any medical experience
  • Tier 2 workers have clinical backgrounds
  • Tier 1 workers are Public Health England employees

Sky News understands that workers from all three tiers had been registered during the beta trial of the service on 13 May.

The government is abandoning efforts to develop its own coronavirus contact-tracing app in order to focus on technology from Apple and Google.

Image: The government’s efforts on a long-awaited contact-tracing app were abandoned in favour of technology from Apple and Google

In a Facebook group for contact tracers, numerous staff have expressed concern that they can’t log in to work and potentially won’t be paid.

One user on the group wrote: “Just tried to log on for my shift and AWS is saying my password has expired and I need to contact an administrator. Does anyone know if this is Sitel and on which number I should call please?”

The password reset site run by Sitel has also crashed, a source told Sky News.

Contact tracers who have phoned the company about their issues have been told to wait, and informed that Sitel can’t reset their passwords over the phone for security reasons.


Hancock on virus app: ‘We backed both horses’

How many cases of COVID-19 where I live?

How many cases of COVID-19 where I live?

One worker on Facebook told others they needed to contact NHS Professionals using the live chat feature to let them know about the problems, in order for a note to be made on their profiles so that they will still be paid.

“For anyone having problems logging onto AWS this morning because of their password being expired: You need to contact NHSP on the live chat to let them know you are having problems and they will make a note on your profile so that you still get paid,” they said.

“I have just asked if everyone needs to do this and they said yes,” they added.

Huawei blocked: Tech must be stripped from UK's 5G network by 2027

Boris Johnson has ordered all Huawei technology to be stripped out of the UK’s 5G network by 2027.

In a major U-turn, the prime minister also banned the purchase of any new 5G equipment from the Chinese tech giant from the end of this year.

The government acknowledged the move would delay the roll-out of 5G in the UK by two to three years and increase costs by up to £2bn.

Image: Huawei is accused of having close links to the Chinese government

Acting on the advice of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Mr Johnson has accepted new US sanctions on Huawei are a “game changer” in relation to the impact of the firm’s technology on the UK’s national security.

Downing Street had previously allowed Huawei to have a role in the UK’s 5G infrastructure – a decision that came little more than six months ago.

Mr Johnson and senior ministers agreed to the removal of Huawei technology within the next seven years at a meeting of the National Security Council in Downing Street on Tuesday morning.

Sky News’ defence and security correspondent Alistair Bunkall said there were some “tense exchanges” during the NSC meeting.

More from Boris Johnson

An existing ban on Huawei’s involvement in the most senstive parts of the UK’s 5G networks – announced in January when the prime minister previously gave the go-ahead for the firm to build mobile infrastructure – remains in place.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed Tuesday’s further action on Huawei in a statement to the House of Commons, as he announced the measures would be put into law by a forthcoming Telecoms Security Bill.

He told MPs: “By the time of the next election we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks.

“We have not taken this decision lightly and I must be frank about the decision’s consequences for every constituency in this country; this will delay our roll-out of 5G.”

Cyber attacks, compensation, levies: The possible implications of the Huawei 5G U-turn

Cyber attacks, compensation, levies: The possible implications of the Huawei 5G U-turn

Mr Dowden said the measures introduced both in January and on Tuesday would cause a cumulative delay to the roll-out of 5G in the UK of two to three years and increase costs by up to £2bn.

Critics have long alleged Huawei has close links to the Chinese government and its equipment could be used for espionage purposes – something the company has always denied.

Huawei describes itself as a private company “fully owned by its employees”.

In January, Mr Johnson confirmed Huawei would be able to build “non-core” parts of the UK’s 5G network, but with a series of conditions attached to the company’s involvement.

This included capping Huawei’s market share at 35% and blocking it from involvement in the most sensitive areas of the network.

The prime minister’s decision angered US President Donald Trump – who was reported to have been “apoplectic” with Mr Johnson in a telephone call.

In May, the US placed more sanctions on Huawei to block the firm from using computer chips based on American designs in any of its equipment.

This led to fears the company could begin to use “untrusted” replacement technologies and prompted the NCSC’s review of January’s decision.

They are understood to have concluded there were no alternative products on the market for which the UK could have confidence in.

The NCSC had “significantly changed their security assessment” of Huawei’s presence in the UK’s 5G network in the wake of the US sanctions, Mr Dowden told MPs.

He added: “Given the uncertainty that this creates around Huawei’s supply chain, the UK can no longer be confident it will be able to guarantee the security of future Huawei 5G equipment affected by the change in US foreign direct-product rules.”

Chi Onwurah, Labour’s shadow digital, science and technology minister, branded the government’s approach “incomprehensibly negligent”.

She told MPs: “It has been clear for some time that there are serious questions over whether Huawei should be allowed to control large sections of our country’s telecoms networks, yet the government refused to face reality.

“Their approach to our 5G capability, Huawei and our national security has been incomprehensibly negligent.”

Responding to the government’s announcement, Huawei UK spokesperson Ed Brewster said: “This disappointing decision is bad news for anyone in the UK with a mobile phone.

“It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane, push up bills and deepen the digital divide.

“Instead of ‘levelling up’ the government is levelling down and we urge them to reconsider.

“We remain confident that the new US restrictions would not have affected the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.

“Regrettably our future in the UK has become politicised, this is about US trade policy and not security.”

Mr Brewster said Huawei would conduct a “detailed review” of what Tuesday’s decision means for the firm’s involvement in the UK.

In recent months, an increasing number of Conservative MPs had spoken out about Huawei’s involvement in the UK in recent months, which piled pressure on Mr Johnson to reverse January’s decision.

Dissent on the Tory benches in the House of Commons had also grown amid wider concerns about China, including Beijing’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, its imposition of a new security law on Hong Kong, and its treatment of Uighur people.

On Tuesday morning, ahead of the National Security Council meeting, former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told Sky News that “you can’t separate” Chinese firms and the Chinese government.

“Across the free world, more and more countries are now recognising that they face a particular threat now from Chinese government intentions,” he said.

Budget watchdog sees virus crisis response topping £192bn

The UK’s budget watchdog has revised sharply higher its projections for the cost of the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis and warned the country remains on track for its worst economic slump in 300 years.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said it now expected the chancellor’s support programmes for the economy – part-bolstered by Rishi Sunak’s summer statement last week – to cost £192.3bn.

That was up from the £132.5bn figure it forecast the previous month.

CBI sees cash gap in ‘powerful package’

The OBR, which is independent of government, published the figure alongside a set of scenarios it had created to measure the potential hit to the economy and public finances over the medium term from COVID-19.

They suggested UK output could shrink by up to 14.3% this year, in the worst case, with the economy not recovering to pre-crisis levels until 2024.

Even under its most optimistic scenario, the OBR sees gross domestic product (GDP) declining by 10.6% this year – the worst performance for 300 years.

The central scenario saw 2020 output falling by 12.4%, with the jobless rate peaking at 11.4%. It currently stands at 3.9%.

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Economy screen

Will the Treasury’s £30bn stimulus pay off?

Crucially, the OBR said its economic scenarios did not take into account the effects of the additional measures announced by the chancellor last week.

The budget body said they would have had a “material effect” on its findings but came in too late to be included in Tuesday’s report.

Its findings were released just hours after official figures showed the economy remained a quarter below pre-crisis levels in May amid a tepid fightback from lockdown measures.

Manufacturing and online retail accounted for the improvement.

The OBR said it was likely that taxes would have to rise and/or spending be cut sharply to help account for an “unprecedented” surge in peacetime net borrowing above £300bn under its central scenario.

Rishi Sunak

Chancellor: ‘We can’t protect every job’

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said of the OBR’s virus response estimate: “This OBR analysis is very worrying.

“Unless the government takes urgent action, the UK’s unemployment crisis is going to get much worse.

“The Chancellor must now listen to calls from Labour, business and trade unions and make the Job Retention Scheme live up to its name. Instead of withdrawing support across the piece, he must target it to sectors where it’s needed most.

“If he doesn’t act, even more people run the risk of being thrown into the misery of unemployment and our economy will continue to suffer.”

Economy 'still a quarter below' pre-virus crisis level in May

Official figures show the economy failed to regain much momentum in May – the second full month of the coronavirus lockdown.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a 1.8% improvement in UK output during May compared to the previous month but said the economy remained 24.5% below its pre-crisis level in February.

Jonathan Athow, its deputy national statistician, said of the performance: “Manufacturing and house-building showed signs of recovery as some businesses saw staff return to work.

Job cut deluge deepens despite high street help

“Despite this, the economy was still a quarter smaller in May than in February, before the full effects of the pandemic struck.

“In the important services sector we saw some pick-up in retail, which saw record online sales.

“However, with lockdown restrictions remaining in place, many other services remained in the doldrums, with a number of areas seeing further declines.”

The data is encouraging in the sense that the worst would appear to be over following the record slump for output in April.

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It was during that time government loan and furlough schemes got into gear, to help shield businesses and wages from the worst of the enforced hibernation of the economy.

Economy screen

Will the Treasury’s new £30bn stimulus pay off?

The chancellor, who has admitted that he can’t save every job, announced further stimulus in a statement to MPs last week.

Rishi Sunak said in response to the ONS figures: “Today’s figures underline the scale of the challenge we face.

“I know people are worried about the security of their jobs and incomes.

“That’s why I set out our Plan for Jobs last week, following the PM’s new deal for Britain, to protect, support and create jobs as we safely reopen our economy.

“Our clear plan invests up to £30bn in significant and targeted support to put people’s livelihoods at the centre of our national renewal as we emerge through the other side of this crisis.”

Queen's role in PM's sacking revealed in newly released letters

The Queen was not told in advance about the controversial sacking of Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, newly released letters reveal.

Removing Mr Whitlam from office in 1975 was one of the most contentious moments of Australian political history and raised huge questions about Australian independence from Britain.

It is the only time to date that an Australian democratically-elected government has been dismissed on the British monarch’s authority and has been subject of intense scrutiny ever since.

Image: The Queen pictured in Melbourne in 2006

After an Australian High Court ruling, royal papers have finally been released that shed further light on the decision.

One of the letters, from then governor-general Sir John Kerr – Her Majesty’s representative in Australia – is addressed to her private secretary Sir Martin Charteris in London.

It shows Sir John decided to get rid of Mr Whitlam without seeking the Queen‘s consent.

He wrote: “I should say I decided to take the step I took without informing the palace in advance because, under the constitution, the responsibility is mine, and I was of the opinion it was better for Her Majesty not to know in advance, though it is of course my duty to tell her immediately.”

More from Australia

The correspondence also reveals Sir John acted out of fear of his own dismissal and the position the situation would put the Queen in.

Appearing to agree that Sir John’s actions were constitutional, Sir Martin replied that the dismissal “cannot easily be challenged from a constitutional point of view however much the politicians will, of course, rage”.


Image: Gough Whitlam addresses reporters outside the Australian Parliament after his dismissal in November 1975

Mr Whitlam was sacked and replaced by opposition leader Malcolm Fraser in November 1975.

At the time, Australia had reached a constitutional crisis after the Senate refused to pass a budget unless an election was held.

Mr Whitlam’s Labour government refused and after three weeks of political stalemate, Sir John made the decision on behalf of the Queen to install Mr Fraser’s Liberal Party as a caretaker government.

The newly-sacked leader made a famous speech on the steps of Parliament House in Canberra, saying: “Well may we say ‘God save the Queen’ – because nothing will save the governor-general.”

Mr Whitlam’s sacking triggered a political crisis that spurred many to call for Australia to sever its constitutional ties with Britain and create a republic with an Australian president.

But Sydney University constitutional law expert Professor Anne Twomey said the letters undermined the theory that Mr Whitlam had been brought down by the Royal Family.

She said the letters show that Mr Whitlam had sought British intervention to keep him in power.

“The only smoking gun is Whitlam himself trying to get reinstated,” Prof Twomey said.,the newly-released letters show.

The newly-released letters show the Queen’s private secretary said Mr Whitlam rang him at 4.15am on the day of his dismissal


Image: Mr Whitlam pictured in Sydney in 2012

Sir Martin said Mr Whitlam “spoke calmly and did not ask me to any approach to the Queen, or indeed to do anything other than the suggestion that I should speak to you to find out what was going on”.

He added that Sir John had shown “admirable consideration” for the Queen by not informing her beforehand but admitted “there have been some who have questioned what you have done”.

Sir Martin said: “If I may say so with the greatest respect, I believe that in NOT informing the Queen what you intended to do before doing it, you acted not only with perfect constitutional propriety but also with admirable consideration for Her Majesty’s position.”

Sir Martin went on to suggest that if Mr Whitlam later returned to power he should be “extremely grateful” to the governor-general for what he did.

The private secretary concluded his letter by saying the Queen sent her best wishes to Sir John “in this difficult time”.

The letters have been released by the National Archives of Australia.

It followed a ruling by the Australian High Court which overturned an earlier decision that deemed the correspondence “personal” and not state records.


St Swithin's Day: Will we see weeks of sunshine or weeks of rain?

Will the next 40 days bring sunshine or rain? All could be revealed tomorrow, according to the legend of St Swithin’s Day.

The ninth century Anglo Saxon bishop of Winchester is best known for the proverb which predicts 40 days of sun or rain depending on the weather during 15 July.

St Swithin is said to have asked to be buried outside Winchester Cathedral so his grave would be exposed to the footsteps of worshippers and to the elements.

But a big storm hit soon after his tomb was moved indoors in the 10th century, a meteorological event that was seen as a sign of the medieval saint’s displeasure.

This resulted in the saying: “St Swithin’s Day if thou dost rain, for 40 days it will remain, St Swithin’s Day if thou be fair, for 40 days will rain na mair.”

The latest weather forecast from Sky News

For those who believe in the legend, there is bad news: Wednesday is likely to be a cloudy day for many, meaning we can supposedly expect the same for 40 days.

Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said: “There will be a rain that could be a bit heavy at times, particularly across parts of Scotland and then western areas of the UK – so North West England, Wales, South West England.

More from UK

“So cloudy with outbreaks of rain that will be heavier towards the North, and further east the clouds could be thick enough for a few spots of rain but mostly dry.”

But Mr Burkill said the weather is not expected to stay cloudy for the next six weeks, adding that by the end of the week the UK could enjoy much warmer temperatures and blue skies, especially in the South.

“It’s a drier and brighter picture as we go into the start of August – it does look like we’re going to see more prolonged dry spells than really we’ve had this month,”

“So quite a different story from what many of us can expect on quite a cloudy and damp St Swithin’s Day.”

'Record investment' for 'shovel-ready' flood defence projects in England

An extra £170m is being allocated to “shovel-ready” flood defence projects across England, the government says.

The funding is on top of a £5.2bn package to build around 2,000 flood and coastal defences that will protect 336,000 properties by 2027.

The £170m package will see work start on 22 other projects this year, the government said.

They include:

  • Up to £21m for the second phase of a flood prevention scheme in Leeds, protecting more than 370 businesses and enabling development of land for homes and jobs
  • £1.3m for “natural flood management” to reduce the flow of rainwater into the River Aire in Yorkshire
  • Up to £30m for the Severn Valley and £5m in Tenbury Wells to protect almost 3,000 homes in areas badly flooded last winter
  • £5.4m for tree-planting and creating habitat to reduce the risk of flooding and store carbon throughout the Severn Valley
  • Almost £43.5m for a tidal barrier and flood walls in Lowestoft and the Suffolk coast to protect key infrastructure and businesses and support offshore energy and tourism

Other schemes include protecting critical infrastructure on the coast around Brighton, Hove and Shoreham; restoring peatland in the Peak District; and protecting Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Last winter I saw for myself the misery and upheaval that flooding can bring to lives and livelihoods and I said we would do more to help people.

More from UK

“This long-term plan will help push back the flood waters and protect hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses and livelihoods.

“Our record investment will also stimulate economic growth across the UK as we build back better.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The devastating impacts of last winter’s flooding were an important reminder of the need to continue to invest and accelerate action to reduce the impact of flooding on our communities.

“Our record investment and ambitious policies will better protect homes, schools, hospitals and businesses, but we also recognise that we cannot prevent flooding entirely, which is why we will ensure that communities at high risk are more resilient.”

There are also proposed changes to the government and insurance industry Flood Re scheme, including cheaper premiums for homes that have protection measures such as air brick covers.

The government will also review the policy for building in areas at risk of floods and expand flood warning systems.

Face coverings to become mandatory in English shops

Face coverings must be worn in shops and supermarkets in England from Friday 24 July, Boris Johnson has announced.

Enforcement will be carried out by police – not retail staff – and anyone failing to wear a face covering while shopping will face a fine of up to £100, or £50 if paid within 14 days.

The rules to tackle coronavirus will be the same as those currently applicable on public transport in England, which means children under 11 and people with certain disabilities will be exempt.

Image: People who flout the rule face a £100 fine

The wearing of face coverings became compulsory in Scotland last week and around 120 countries – including Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece – now require coverings to be worn in public places.

Announcing the move, a Number 10 spokesperson said: “There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus.

“The prime minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops and we will make this mandatory from July 24.”

The decision, due to be outlined by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in a Commons statement on Tuesday afternoon, follows four days of conflicting statements from ministers and demands from opposition MPs for clarity.

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Commuters wearing a face mask travel on TfL Victoria Line underground train carriages, heading towards central London, on June 15, 2020 after new rules make wearing face coverings on public transport compulsory while the UK further eases its coronavirus lockdown. - New coronavirus pandemic rules coming into force on June 15 make wearing face coverings such as masks or scarves compulsory on public transport, as various stores and outdoor attractions open for the first time in nearly three months. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Image: The rule is already in place on public transport in England

Responding to the announcement confirming mandatory face coverings, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: “The government has been slow and muddled again over face coverings.

“Given the government’s own guidance issued on 11 May advised in favour of face masks, many will ask why yet again have ministers been slow in making a decision in this pandemic, and why it’ll take another 11 days before these new guidelines to come into force.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan went further and called the government’s “confused communications” on the subject a “disgrace”.

“We can’t afford to wait another day and the government should bring this policy in immediately – further delay risks lives,” he urged.

And the British Chambers of Commerce’s co-executive director Claire Walker said: “Businesses need clarity on the approach to the wearing of face coverings that is consistent and supported by public health evidence.

“Shops and other indoor businesses need to know what the new rules are as soon as possible.

“Updated guidance, including on enforcement, should be issued swiftly so firms can maintain their COVID-secure status and continue their operations successfully.”

Boris Johnson

PM: ‘Important to wear face masks in shops’

In his most recent statement on face coverings, 12 hours before the official confirmation by Number 10, Mr Johnson said: “I think that as throughout this crisis people have shown amazing sensitivity towards other people and understanding of the needs to get the virus down by doing things cooperatively.

“I think wearing masks is one of them. In a confined space what you’re doing is you’re protecting other people from the transmission that you might be giving to other people.

“And they in turn they’re are protecting you. It’s a mutual thing. People do see the value of it.”

But just one day earlier, Michael Gove suggested masks in shops should not be mandatory, saying he believed shoppers should be encouraged to wear them, but he believed in “people’s good sense”.

And Home Secretary Priti Patel was pictured meeting her French counterpart indoors without wearing a mask over the weekend – despite being seen wearing one speaking to him outdoors on the same day – sparking claims ministers were sending mixed messages.

Priti Patel greeted French interior minister outside with a face mask on - but took it off when they met inside

Image: Priti Patel switched between wearing and not wearing a mask

Since 11 May, government guidance has advised the public to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, where they may come into contact with people they would not usually meet.

The use of face coverings became mandatory on public transport in England from 15 June.

Although Mr Hancock will confirm that the government guidance will be updated to make the wearing of face coverings in shops and supermarkets compulsory, he will say that guidance for other settings will be kept under review.

Regulations will be made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. While shop employees should encourage compliance, the government said retailers and businesses will not be expected to enforce the policy.

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