BRITS who fail to wear a mask in shops and on public transport could face a maximum fine of £6,400 from TOMORROW.
Fines of £200 will be handed out to people in England who do not wear a face mask under new government rules as they try to crack down on the “worst ever” Covid variant.
Brits who don’t wear masks on public transport or shops will be fined £200[/caption]
Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed yesterday that compulsory masks will be reintroduced in England from Tuesday to help tackle the Omicron super-strain.
Those who continually fail to comply with the rules will have their fine double with each offence.
A second infraction will see it jump to £400, then £800 for a third with the maximum fine being capped at £6,400.
MPs will vote on the new restrictions within 28 days after legislation is placed before the Commons today – with the rules coming into effect at 4am on Tuesday.
Rules are different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where masks are already required in certain settings.
Masks will not be required within the hospitality sector, meaning they are not needed in restaurants and pubs and will not be required by law in venues such as concerts, cinemas and theatres.
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MPs also cannot be forced by Parliament to wear masks while in the Commons.
It comes after Boris Johnson ordered the return of masks and for contacts of anyone infected with the variant to self-isolate for 10 days.
Face masks on shops and public transport stopped being a legal requirement in England on July 19.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Mr Javid confirmed that people who refuse to wear masks will be hit with the new sanctions.
The BBC host asked: “Are you insisting as a government that everybody going into a shop wears a mask? And are you going to take sanctions on people who refuse to?”
Mr Javid replied: “Yes, it will be a legal requirement by government regulations to wear masks in shops and public transport.”
Masks have remained compulsory on London’s Tube system, but Transport for London figures show only 108 people out of the millions who travel on the capital’s underground network were removed for not wearing face coverings.
Under the Government’s new raft of travel restrictions, anyone arriving in the UK must take a day-two PCR tests and self-isolate until the results arrive, with 10 countries slapped on the red list.
Mr Javid said there had been no more confirmed Omicron cases in the UK, but admitted “there may well be more”.
But he insisted Britain is “nowhere near” full lockdown and Christmas will be “great”, with the new measures set to be reviewed in three weeks.
Earlier, speaking to Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday, Mr Javid admitted “we will never defeat” Covid as the Government launched a fresh crackdown against the virus.
It will be a legal requirement by government regulations to wear masks in shops and public transport.
He has asked Government vaccine advisers the JCVI to broaden the booster programme, which is currently open to all over-40s.
When asked how mandatory mask-wearing will be enforced, Mr Javid said: “I do think people will take this more seriously”.
But Mr Javid insisted: “Over the last few days, and of course this has been very fast moving, people will have been able to understand the concerns over this new variant.
“They will be concerned not just for themselves but for their friends and family and want to know their Government is taking proportionate action.
“So I think that will encourage people anyway to listen and think about some of he new measures and take them seriously.”
He added: “I hope this is something we can remove within weeks.”
Targeted testing was being carried out in Essex and Nottingham where the two infected people are located.
Boris Johnson announced the added restrictions yesterday after the two cases of the dreaded super-spreading strain were reported..
The two cases – which are currently isolating – are said to be linked to travel in South Africa.
But Mr Johnson said tighter border controls would only go so far to quell the variant’s spread in Britain, adding “proportionate and targeted measures” were now needed.
He told a Downing Street news briefing: “We need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the UK.
“I an addition to the measures we are already taking, we will require all contacts of those who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of your vaccination status.
“We will also go further in asking all of you to help contain the spread of this variant by tightening up the rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport.”
The latest clampdown is expected to require everyone in shops, trains and buses in England to wear a face covering – unless they are medically exempt.
The exact rules are expected to be set out in “the next day or so”, with Boris adding Brits will go back “to a position where you have to wear them in retail settings or on public transport”.
Travellers arriving into the UK will also have to take a mandatory PCR test on or before day two – and they must isolate until they get a negative result.
Boris Johnson announced the new measures on Saturday evening[/caption]
Boris said the new tightened rules on mask-wearing is the “responsible course of action” in a bid to stop the spread of the new mutant strain.
“These are targeted measures to provide confidence and protection, and we will review these measures in three weeks to ensure they are working effectively,” he told journalists.
The restrictions, which do not apply to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, also mark a screeching U-turn in England’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Brits were finally allowed to fling off their masks on July 19 this year, as the nation celebrated Freedom Day and an end to all restrictions.
While the Government still recommend masks in certain situations, businesses and individuals were largely allowed to decide when they did and didn’t cover up.
These are targeted measures to provide confidence and protection, and we will review these measures in three weeks to ensure they are working effectively.
England’s picture appeared far bleaker yesterday as Mr Javid confirmed two people had tested positive for the Omicron super strain in England.
Mr Javid said the two people who tested positive had links to travel in South Africa where Omicron has seen an explosion of cases.
He added targeted testing is now being carried out in Britain, as travel restrictions were set to be introduced for Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola.
Announcing the news, Mr Javid told Sky News: “Late last night I was contacted by the UK Health Security Agency.
“I was informed that they have detected two cases of this new variant, Omicron, in the United Kingdom.
“One in Chelmsford, the other in Nottingham.”
It comes after Senior Government scientists warned the mutant Omicron variant was the “worst variant they have seen so far” – with vaccines expected to be at least a third less effective against it.
Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said the variant could be “of real concern” as 32 mutations in its spike protein could enable it to evade a person’s immune system more easily and spread to more people.
On Twitter, he said the variant “very, very much should be monitored due to that horrific spike profile” that could make it more contagious than any other variant so far.
While the effectiveness of vaccines against Omicron is currently unclear, Mr Johnson said there are “good reasons for believing they will provide at least some measure of protection”.
He said today “we’re going to boost the booster campaign” by asking the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to consider giving boosters to “as wide a group as possible as well as reducing the gap” between second doses and the booster.
Meanwhile Professor Chris Whitty today urged people to “take sensible precautions” as scientists work to analyse any “possible increase in transmissibility or resistance to vaccines” in light of the Omicron strain.
The Chief Medical Officer said: “We will continue to work closely with the international community to quickly gather and analyse information on this variant to understand any possible increase in transmissibility or resistance to vaccines.
“It is important that everyone takes sensible precautions – get a PCR test if you have symptoms, isolate when asked, wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces, ventilate rooms, get your vaccine and boosters as soon as you can.”
It became compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport in the UK on June 15, 2020.
Wearing a face mask in shops became compulsory on July 24, 2020.
After the restrictions lifted, some businesses like Transport For London continued to ask customers to wear face coverings.
Children under the age of 11 and people with breathing problems, mental illness, and/or physical disabilities are exempt from wearing masks.
Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.