Health Minister supports mandatory wearing of face coverings in NI shops

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By David Young, PA

Northern Ireland's health minister is to recommend the mandatory wearing of face coverings in the region's shops.

Robin Swann will table the recommendation to colleagues in the Stormont Executive urging them to approve the move.

It will become compulsory to wear a face covering in English shops from Friday July 24.

In Scotland, shoppers are already required to wear coverings, with those flouting the rules liable for fines.

"I have no wish to pre-empt Executive decisions, but I am firmly of the view that everything possible must be done to encourage the wearing of face coverings in retail stores and other indoor spaces where people are not eating, drinking or exercising," Mr Swann said.

He said chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride and chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young agreed with the recommendation.

"It is also the case that making it mandatory would provide clarity and reassurance for members of the public," said the minister.

"We need to promote every available measure to stop the spread of Covid-19, both now and into the autumn and winter, given the risk of further waves of infection. Wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces will have to become second nature if we are to keep each other safe.

"I am also very mindful that shielding is due to be paused from July 31. People who have been shielding will need our support as they resume everyday activities. Wearing face coverings in shops and indoor spaces is an important way to show solidarity with them."

Mr Swann confirmed his move as Northern Ireland recorded no further coronavirus deaths on Wednesday.

The toll recorded by the Department of Health remains at 556.

Another nine positive tests were recorded, bringing the overall total to 5,799.

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