Face masks are now required for anyone entering shops and other public spaces in England, as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson promoted a flu immunization program by saying those opposed to vaccines are “nuts.”
New rules intended to limit the spread of coronavirus came into force Friday, as face coverings are now mandated in English banks, post offices, enclosed transport hubs and shopping malls.
Customers buying food to take away must also wear a mask. However, venues such as eat-in pubs, restaurants, gyms and salons, where other precautionary measures are in place, will be exempt.
Those who fail to wear a mask could face a fine of up to £100 ($127). Children under 11 and people with disabilities or certain health conditions do not have to comply with the requirement.
The enforcement of the rules will left to the police. A number of retailers in England, including major supermarkets, have said they will not enforce the rule or challenge shoppers without masks.
A Downing Street statement last week said shop employees and retailers should encourage people to comply, but enforcement would be carried out by the police.
The UK government announced this change last week, bringing England into line with Scotland and other European nations, such as Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece, which have already made it compulsory to wear face coverings inside shops.
‘There’s all these anti-vaxxers now. They are nuts’
Meanwhile, Johnson criticized those opposed to vaccines and urged people to get a flu jab as part of what health authorities are calling the “most comprehensive” flu vaccination program in British history.
“There’s all these anti-vaxxers now. They are nuts, they are nuts,” Johnson said as he visited a doctor’s surgery in London on Friday.
The “expanded” flu vaccination program is designed to try to prevent Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) from being overwhelmed if there is a second peak of coronavirus, and relieve winter pressure on emergency care, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said in a statement on Friday.
Providers will aim to vaccinate more than 30 million people during the flu season, which is “millions more” than the number of people who received the jab last year, the DHSC statement added.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in the statement that: “This will be the biggest flu vaccination program in history, and will help protect our NHS as we head into winter.”
Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been widely criticized across the political spectrum.
The UK is the hardest-hit country in Europe, with a death toll of more than 45,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. This is the third-highest globally behind the United States and Brazil.