Retailers have criticised the move to enforce mandatory face coverings in shops, suggesting it may act as a “deterrent” for younger shoppers.
Peter Cowgill, executive chairman of JD Sports, said he was “surprised” by the timing of the Government’s announcement, which he said had come at the “back end” of the pandemic.
Mr Cowgill added he suspected face coverings could act as a “deterrent” for younger customers.
Police chiefs also voiced their concerns with enforcement of the new measures described as “nigh-on impossible”. Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the situation facing officers was “absolutely absurd”.
It comes as police in England are set to be given new powers to enforce the wearing of face masks in all shops, the Government is set to announce on Tuesday.
The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 will be amended to allow police to issue fines of up to £100 to people who fail to wear a face covering.
Follow the latest updates below.
UK coronavirus deaths down, while fatalities below five-year average but rising in some regions
The number of deaths officially linked to Covid-19 in the UK has now passed 55,000 according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), writes Dominic Gilbert.
Between March 6 and July 3 there were 55,068 deaths among people who had Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate. Another 108 deaths have since been reported in hospitals in England, bringing the total to 55,176.
The number of deaths overall was below the five year average for the third week in the week leading to July 3, but are increasing in a number of regions.
They include the North East, where weekly excess deaths rose from 3 to 34, Wales from -19 to 29, and the South East, from -137 to 46.
Out of the English regions, the North West had the largest number of deaths involving Covid-19 (100 deaths) in the week ending July 3, as well as the highest proportion of deaths involving Covid-19, 8.2 per cent of all deaths.
More than 64,000 excess deaths have now been registered across the UK since the start of the pandemic, though numbers are falling as deaths have fallen below average for the time of year.
Deaths have been below average in hospitals for seven weeks and care homes for three weeks in England and Wales. But deaths in people’s homes remain far higher than average for the time of year, with 755 excess deaths in the week ending July 3, up from 745 the week prior.
Reaction to announcement on wearing face masks in shops in England
Professor Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, said:
The wearing of face masks in shops or enclosed shopping centres is one of those activities that should help reduce the spread.
Lack of strong evidence of their effectiveness should not be considered a problem but the evidence is accumulating that they have apart to play in reducing transmission and also in protecting the wearer.
Meanwhile, Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia who authored a study in face mask use, has acknowledged that different types of study have given mixed results:
The value of face masks in the community is still an issue that the scientific community has not yet reached consensus on.
Randomised controlled trials – the gold standard of scientific evidence – of face mask use in the community have not proven that mandating their widespread use is protective.
And the Telegraph’s own Zoe Strimpel writes that masks are pointless unless Britons learn to wear them properly – adding that masks may be “horrible” to wear, but “are important: they signal the acceptance that each of us is not just a potential victim but a vector of Covid-19”.
Buy-to-let mortgage inquiries boom after Rishi Sunak announcement of stamp duty holiday
Buy-to-let landlords have swooped into the property market to take advantage of the stamp duty tax giveaway, Melissa Lawford and Adam Williams report.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week announced that buyers in England and Northern Ireland would pay no stamp duty on the first £500,000 of their purchases until March 31.
Landlords and others purchasing a second home still pay 3 per cent of the entire value of the property in additional tax, but the tax break means that their bills could fall by as much as half.
Read the full article here.
UK coronavirus deaths at lowest level since lockdown rules enforced
The number of weekly registered deaths involving coronavirus has fallen to the lowest level since lockdown was first introduced, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending July 3 involving Covid-19 was 532, data published this morning shows.
This is the lowest number of deaths linked to the virus in the last 15 weeks.
The ONS logged 539 deaths that involved coronavirus in the UK in the week of March 23, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the nationwide lockdown.
Who is exempt from wearing a face mask?
With face masks becoming compulsory in shops and supermarkets from July 24, some people will be exempt from having to wear one.
While the new rules will be enforced by the police, children under the age of 11 and those with “certain disabilities” will not have to wear a mask under the new legislation.
Read the latest on compulsory coverings, fines, and who is exempt from wearing a mask here.
Online shopping is here to stay, says Ocado delivery boss
Ocado’s chief executive predicts that shoppers will not return to supermarkets after switching to online, writes Simon Foy, as the retailer reported another loss.
Tim Steiner said: “We believe that this channel shift is sustainable, as survey data shows that many consumers who were shopping online during the peak of the pandemic in their respective countries have either continued to do so, or intend to continue online shopping as lockdown measures ease.”
His comments came as the online grocer narrowed pre-tax losses to £40.6 million for the six months to the end of May, compared to a loss of £147.4 million for the same period last year.
Revenues surged by 23 per cent to £1.09 billion, with “unprecedented demand” for online deliveries during the coronavirus lockdown.
Read more: ‘The world as we know it has changed,’ says Ocado boss
Leicester lockdown update expected as meeting takes place
A board meeting of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland’s Clinical Commissioning Group is underway to discuss the handling of the local lockdown that the city was plunged into at the end of last month.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jonathan Van Tam said yesterday that the situation in Leicester is improving, but it needs to go further as “Leicester is still quite an outlier” in its infection rates.
The local lockdown in Leicester came into place on June 29, with non-essential retail forced to close down and people urged not to travel in or out of the area.
UK economy news: GDP growth of 1.8% in May
UK GDP added 1.8 per cent in May, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics this morning, but output is still a quarter below pre-lockdown levels.
The 1.8 per cent growth figure is considerably lower than the 5.5 per cent increase that had first been predicted by economists.
It follows on from a record 20.4 per cent GDP fall in April and a 5.8 per cent decline in March. In all, the economy has contracted by 19.1 per cent over the course of the three months.
Comment: Larger health catastrophe looms for women and children
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of health services across poorer countries – which has left women and children particularly vulnerable, writes Monique Vledder.
Governments urgently need to double down on the provision of basic care if years of progress are not to be lost. The worst health crisis in a century has already caused more than 500,000 deaths, but a much larger health catastrophe is looming.
Tens of millions of women and children may die or endure lifelong health impacts because of disruptions to essential health services and the reluctance by patients to seek care for fear of Covid-19 infection.
New data from Somalia, Mali, and Liberia shows up to a 40 per cent reduction in essential health services such as childhood immunisation, antenatal care and safe childbirth.
Read Monique’s full piece here.
Face masks in shops could be extended to offices
Environment Secretary George Eustice did not rule out the mandatory use of face coverings being extended to offices and other workplaces, as they become compulsory in shops from July 24.
“At the moment we take one step at a time, and we’ve taken the view in this next step that we should make it mandatory in retail environments,” Mr Eustice told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“When it comes to workplace environments, because people are in the same company throughout the day, there are not lots of people coming through the venue as you have in a retail environment; the risk of transmission is therefore lower.”
Mandatory face masks will be “impossible” to enforce
Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh said the Government’s move to require the wearing of face masks in English shops will be “impossible for enforcement”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Shopkeepers need to step up to the plate and take some responsibility. They can quite easily put signs up on their doors ‘No mask on, no entry, this is private property’.
“That’s the first point we need to get across because this cannot all be laid on the shoulders of the police yet again.
“The second point is it will be nigh-on impossible for enforcement because you won’t have a police officer on every shop door because there isn’t enough of us.
“If a shopkeeper calls the police because someone hasn’t got a mask on, they haven’t got the power to detain them so that person can just walk away.
“We’ll be driving around and around London looking for people who aren’t wearing masks, it’s absolutely absurd.”
Face coverings could be “deterrent” for younger customers, JD Sports executive warns
The executive chairman of JD Sports, Peter Cowgill, has warned face coverings could be a “deterrent” for younger shoppers.
Mr Cowgill said he was “surprised” at the timing of the announcement for mandatory face coverings in all shops, which he said had come at the “back end” of the pandemic instead of the start.
He also said the decision to allow 10 days before the new rules come into force was “indecisive”, suggesting it could harm consumer confidence for retailers with younger demographics.
Asked whether he thought face masks could be bad for business, he told BBC Radio 4: “It maybe a positive for older customers but a deterrent for younger ones.”
Face masks may not be compulsory for shop staff
Environment Secretary George Eustice suggested face covering use would not be compulsory for shop staff.
Asked if the rules will apply to supermarket staff, he said: “They’re not being covered by this but I think if you go into most shops you will see that staff for a longer time now have either been wearing face shields or face masks.
“It won’t be a compulsory requirement because it won’t always be right for every setting in a retail environment, particularly those working behind the tills and so on.”
Mr Eustace also said the rules for shoppers would not be enforced until July 24, to give people time to prepare.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We want to give people time to plan and prepare and for retailers to maybe put in place measures to encourage people to do this or potentially even to have some masks themselves if people haven’t got one.
“Once you make something mandatory as we’re doing now for retail environments it sends a much stronger signal that people will follow in greater numbers.”
Retail group welcomes “clarity” on face coverings
The British Retail Consortium has said mandatory face coverings in shops in England will give people “confidence” after days of “mixed messages”.
“The clarity we’re going to get today for implementation in about 10 days’ time is going to give a level of reassurance,” chief executive Helen Dickinson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“What we saw over the weekend with mixed messages, I think made it really difficult for people to understand what it was they’re expected to do.
“Clarity is really important to give people that confidence. It is absolutely true that sales and footfall are returning only very slowly to our high streets and town centres and shopping centres up and down the country.”
London mayor rubbishes claims passengers are refusing to wear face masks
Sadiq Khan said a suggestion that people refusing to wear a face covering on the Tube were not being fined or stopped was “not true”.
He told the BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that British Transport Police (BTP) and enforcement officers were using “encouragement where possible” as well as stopping travellers, asking them to leave or issuing fines if the failed to comply with the rule requiring the wearing of face coverings on public transport.
Mr Khan added: “Our enforcement officers and the BTP have stopped in the region of 18,500 people stopping travelling because they refuse to wear face coverings and actually the fines that have had to be issued so far is only 59.
“And during rush hour we have more than 90% compliance.”
Restrictions reimposed in Asia-Pacific as global infections reach 13 million
From Melbourne to Manila, Hong Kong and India’s tech capital Bengaluru, lockdowns and strict social distancing restrictions are being reimposed across the Asia-Pacific after a surge in cases fanned fears of a second wave of infections.
Many parts of Asia, the region first hit by the coronavirus that emerged in central China late last year, are finding cause to pause the reopening of their economies, some after winning praise for their initial responses to the coronavirus outbreak.
The number of coronavirus infections around the world hit 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, climbing by a million in just five days. Reuters’ global tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease accelerating fastest in Latin America, the number of deaths there exceeding the figure for North America for the first time on Monday.
Read more: Second Covid wave could see twice as many deaths
Singapore and Malaysia to reopen business travel
Singapore and Malaysia are to resume essential business and official travel between their countries, they said on Tuesday, letting people cross their border for the first time since most movements were suspended because of the coronavirus in March.
The neighbours are also putting in place travel arrangements for their residents who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work in the other country, their foreign ministries said in a joint statement.
They hope to launch the exchanges on Aug. 10, they said, adding that they had also agreed to develop other schemes for cross-border movements, including for daily commutes by workers.
Police crack down on face mask violators in India
Indian police are having a field day handing out fines to people who do not wear a mask during the pandemic.
Many people just cannot get used to the accessory, which has come to symbolise the new normal, having been made compulsory in most big cities.
New Delhi shared-ride driver Munish Tiwari said he had received two tickets for 500-rupee (£5.29) fines since taxis got back on the road a month ago, which had wiped out a day’s earnings.
“It is just not comfortable and I cannot breathe when I have to wear it,” he said.
“I have to wear it when there are passengers, but as soon as the door closes and they are gone, normally I take it off. I am easy prey for the police.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently chided the country’s 1.3 billion people for being “careless” about social distancing.
India has almost 880,000 virus cases and more than 23,000 dead, and experts say the peak is still weeks away. But both rich and poor say they feel awkward or uncomfortable covering up their face.
Read more: Shoppers without face masks risk £100 fine
France reduces Chinese flights to Paris in tit-for-tat row
France on Monday started restricting Chinese airlines to one passenger flight per week, saying it was acting in response to curbs imposed by Beijing on French carriers.
“From July 13, Chinese companies will only be authorised to make one weekly trip,” the French embassy in Beijing said on its website. “Discussions are underway between the two governments with a view to reaching a satisfactory solution.”
China’s state aviation regulator, CAAC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The French embassy said three Chinese carriers were each authorised to make weekly flights from Chinese cities to Paris.
It said that, under a June 12 reciprocal arrangement, Air France had been authorised by Beijing to carry out three flights a week to China but that, in practice, Chinese authorities had only allowed one Air France flight per week.
It said France was applying intense diplomatic pressure to get the go-ahead from Beijing for the extra flights. In the meantime, it advised travellers to be prepared for disruption to air links between the countries.
Boy-band concert linked to latest outbreak in Tokyo
Tokyo health officials appealed on Tuesday for more than 800 theatregoers to get tested after a production starring Japanese boy-band members was found to be the source of at least 20 cases.
As the number of virus infections continues to rise in Japan’s capital city, the Tokyo government said it was focussing on a 190-seat theatre in the Shinjuku entertainment district, where infections have also been traced to cabaret clubs.
The latest cluster has been traced to Theatre Moliere, near Tokyo’s red-light district, which staged a play for six days starring mainly up-and-coming boy-band members earlier this month.
The Tokyo government said it learned of the first infection among a cast member on July 6, after which testing found 20 related cases by late on Monday.
Australia tightens restrictions
Australian states on Tuesday tightened restrictions on movement as authorities struggle to contain a fresh outbreak in the country’s southeast that is starting to spill into other areas.
With growing fears of a second coronavirus wave nationally, two states extended border restrictions and Australia’s most populous state imposed limits on the number of people allowed in large pubs.
The changes come as scores of new cases were uncovered in Victoria, the country’s hotspot, despite a return to lockdown last week for nearly 5 million people in state capital Melbourne.
Active cases in the state rose to nearly 2,000 after another 270 infections were detected in the past 24 hours, authorities said, taking Australia’s total number of cases to about 10,000, with 107 deaths.
South Australia cancelled plans to reopen its border to New South Wales on July 20, while Queensland introduced a mandatory two-week quarantine for people who have visited two areas in Sydney’s western suburbs.
How 57 sailors became infected after 35 days at sea a mystery
Argentina is trying to solve a medical mystery after 57 sailors were infected with the coronavirus after 35 days at sea, despite the entire crew testing negative before leaving port.
The Echizen Maru fishing trawler returned to port after some of its crew began exhibiting symptoms typical of Covid-19, the health ministry for the southern Tierra del Fuego province said on Monday.
According to the ministry, 57 sailors, out of 61 crew members, were diagnosed with the virus after undergoing a new test. However, all of the crew members had undergone 14 days of mandatory quarantine at a hotel in the city of Ushuaia. Prior to that, they had negative results, the ministry said in a statement.
“It’s hard to establish how this crew was infected, considering that for 35 days, they had no contact with dry land and that supplies were only brought in from the port of Ushuaia,” said Alejandra Alfaro, the director of primary health care in Tierra del Fuego.
A team was examining “the chronology of symptoms in the crew to establish the chronology of contagion,” she said.
Hong Kong to impose strict new social distancing rules
Hong Kong will impose strict new social distancing measures from midnight on Tuesday, the most stringent in the Asian financial hub since the coronavirus broke out, as authorities warn the risk of a large-scale outbreak is extremely high.
The measures dictate that face masks will be mandatory for people using public transport and restaurants will no longer provide dine in services and only offer takeaway after 6 pm.
Both are new rules that were not implemented during the city’s first and second waves earlier this year. If a person does not wear a mask on public transport, they face a fine of HK$5,000 (£514).
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday the government would limit group gatherings to four people from 50 – a measure last seen during a second wave in March.
Twelve types of establishments including gyms and places of amusement must shut for a week.
China reports an easing in cases
China reported on Tuesday five new cases in the mainland for July 13, compared with eight cases a day earlier, the health authority said.
All of the new infections were imported cases, the National Health Commission said in a statement. There were no new deaths. Beijing, which saw a surge in cases a few weeks ago, reported no new cases for the eighth consecutive day.
China also reported five new asymptomatic patients, down from six a day earlier.
As of July 13, mainland China had a total of 83,605 confirmed cases, it said.
Ted Cruz pictured without mask on plane
American Airlines said it had contacted Republican Senator Ted Cruz about its coronavirus prevention policies after a photo of the Texas lawmaker without a mask on a flight went viral on social media.
“While our policy does not apply while eating or drinking, we have reached out to Senator Cruz to affirm the importance of this policy as part of our commitment to protecting the health and safety of the traveling public,” AA said in a statement.
Aides to Cruz told US media that he was drinking a coffee at the time the photo was snapped. The senator is holding a coffee cup and a telephone in the photo, but there is no mask in sight.
“For the well-being of our customers and team members, we require face coverings to be worn onboard,” AA said. “We expect our customers to comply with our policies when they choose to travel with us.”
Retailers welcome mask announcement
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said she welcomed the announcement that police, rather than businesses, would be responsible for the enforcement of face masks.
She said: “We look forward to further clarity over whether the wearing of face coverings will apply to shop staff.
“If so, there must be flexibility for colleagues who are in stores all day and can already benefit from other safety measures such as protective screens and 2 metre distancing.
“While retailers will play their part in communicating the new rules on face masks, they must not be the ones enforcing these rules.
“With hundreds of incidents of violence and abuse directed at retail staff every day, we welcome the announcement that enforcement will be left to the authorities, rather than potentially putting hardworking retail colleagues in harm’s way.”