NI Executive keeping mandatory face coverings 'under review'

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By Rebecca Black, PA

The Stormont Executive is keeping the issue of mandatory face coverings "under review".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock formally announced in the Commons on Tuesday afternoon that anyone failing to comply with the order in shops in England from July 24 could face a fine of up to £100.

In Northern Ireland, there are calls to introduce a similar policy after face coverings became compulsory on public transport in the region last week.

Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon argued that this should be extended to shops in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Dr Tom Black, chair of the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland, said he feels confident face coverings will be worn in shops in the region soon.

Retail NI boss Glyn Roberts has called for clarity from the NI Executive around their view and who would enforce such a rule.

"Should the Executive introduce the compulsory wearing of face masks, then retailers and their staff should not be enforcing nor policing such rules," he said.

"We have already had incidents of shop staff trying to police social distancing being abused by a small minority of customers"

"If it (mandatory face covers) is introduced in Northern Ireland, like England, the police should enforce the regulations."

A spokesperson for the Executive Office said: "The use of face coverings is now mandatory on public transport, except where an exemption applies. They are also strongly recommended in indoor environments where social distancing may be difficult.

"The Executive keeps the issue of face coverings under continuous review and any changes to the advice will be communicated to the public."

No additional deaths with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland were announced by the Department of Health on Tuesday, leaving the total number of people who have died at 556.

However, another two positive cases were recorded since Monday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the region to 5,790, according to official figures.

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