In response to continued struggles against the coronavirus pandemic, the U.K. and France on Tuesday extended and strengthened their compulsory face mask mandates. The move comes after both nations held off on making the protective wear mandatory and as they attempt to safely bring citizens back to shops.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that face masks would be compulsory in shops and grocery stores until at least July 24. To enforce this, a new fine of 100 pounds ($125) was introduced for those who do not wear a mask. Children younger than 11 and some with certain disabilities will be exempt.
In England, masks have already been mandated for public transit and hospital settings. The new mandate applies only to England. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have been left to determine their own courses of action, with Scotland already mandating masks indoors.
“In recent weeks, we have reopened retail and footfall is rising,” Hancock said. “We want to give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protection for those who work in shops.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, announced that masks will be required through Aug. 1. Recent failures by French citizens to continue safe public health practices reportedly led to the government imposing stricter guidelines.
“We have signs that (the virus) is picking up a bit,” Macron said in a statement.
The U.K. and France have lagged behind numerous other major European nations in implementing indoor mask mandates. Such rulings have already been made by the likes of Germany, Italy, Spain and Greece.
“The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75% higher amongst men and 60% higher amongst women than in the general population,” Hancock added. “There is also evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop.”
These moves come as the U.S. continues to struggle with public health practices and grapples with major resurgences of COVID-19 in 40 states. President Trump had opposed masks until very recently and a nationwide requirement has yet to be issued. Instead, state and local governments have been left to make the call themselves.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis notably held off on any mandate, leading to the state becoming one of the worst in the nation for infections.