'No need for face coverings in offices or schools', says Hancock despite mandatory rule for shops

Matt Hancock

The health secretary has said there is no need to for face coverings to be made compulsory in offices or schools, despite a rule due to be implemented forcing people to wear them in shops in England.

Matt Hancock admitted there were "broader issues" with some of the new restrictions being introduced, for example with beard trims being permitted but facial treatments being banned, but said there was an explanation for the discrepancy between shops, offices and schools.

"The reason is that where a mask is useful is where you're seeing somebody for a short to medium period of time.

"If you're in the same room as them for the full day, like in an office together - or for instance teachers in schools - then we don't think that masks make much difference," he told ITV's Lorraine.

He said face coverings had already been made mandatory on public transport - and will be made compulsory in shops from July 24 - because "you're seeing different people and for relatively short periods of time, and so the masks then help".

In Scotland, masks have been mandatory in shops since Friday.

Senior Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove was recently pictured in a shop without a face covering, after saying it was "good manners" to wear one, but Mr Hancock defended his colleague, saying the photograph was taken before an announcement on coverings had been made.

Despite ministers now admitting face coverings are useful in slowing the spread of coronavirus, the rule enforcing them in shops will not come in to force until July 24.

The health secretary said the delay in implementation is to "give businesses 10 days to get things organised".

He added: "We recommend wearing a mask in shops and we are going to make it mandatory from July 24 onwards.

"I think that gives people the clarity they have been seeking.”

He also sought to explain why beard trims were considered safe but facials are not.

“A beard trim is quick and essentially defined as part of a haircut.

"So, I know that in all these rules we have had to bring in, they all have issues around the boundaries that have been complicated and people would have wrestled with all the way through.”

Mr Hancock was also quizzed about rules imposed early on in lockdown and admitted some of them caused confusion and could have been clearer.

Asked about family members missing funerals of loved ones, he said: "It was not the intention to stop very close family members going to funerals.

"That is how the guidance was interpreted.

"That obviously meant that we hadn’t written that guidance as clearly as we should have done. I saw that and we changed it and my heart goes out to everybody involved.”