More and more countries make face masks mandatory in stores: England joins the group on 24 July, France on 1 August. Even notorious opponents Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are now arguing for the face covering.
Wearing face masks in English shops and supermarkets is mandatory from 24 July (different rules apply in other parts of the United Kingdom). Anyone shopping without a face mask risks a fine of a hundred pounds. "There is growing evidence that wearing face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus", a Downing Street spokesperson explained the decision.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron, wants to make wearing a mask in all closed public places (including shops) mandatory from 1 August. At the moment, wearing it is 'only' highly recommended, not yet mandatory. For now, supermarkets can decide for themselves whether to go for an obligation or give customers the freedom to choose.
However, the French government has yet to clearly define in what kind of 'closed public spaces' a face mask is mandatory, and what the penalties are for those who do not comply with the new directive.
Freedom of choice?
Wearing a face mask in a store is already mandatory in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Scotland, and Spain. The Australian government has also recently changed course: last week the government decided that people should preferably wear them where social distance is difficult. The announcement was in response to a dramatic increase in the number of infections in the city of Melbourne.
The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention now also says that everyone should cover their faces in public, for example when they go to the supermarket or pick up other supplies. In the United States, more and more large retailers are therefore taking matters into their own hands: face masks have been compulsory in all stores of electronics retailer Best Buy since 15 July.
Walmart, the world's largest supermarket chain, is also considering making face masks mandatory in all its locations in the United States. At the moment, this is already the case in about 3,700 of the more than 5,000 stores. Meanwhile, even President Donald Trump was first seen in public with a face mask last weekend.