Tory MP calls face mask rule for shoppers a 'monstrous imposition'

Sir Desmond Swayne voiced his opposition to the face mask rules on Tuesday. (Getty)
Sir Desmond Swayne voiced his opposition to the face mask rules on Tuesday. (Getty)

A Tory MP has branded the wearing of face masks a "monstrous imposition" after they were made mandatory for shoppers in England.

Face coverings will be made mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England from July 24, the government said on Tuesday, while those who fail to comply with the new rules will face a fine of up to £100.

Former minister Sir Desmond Swayne, 63, said in the Commons on Tuesday "nothing would make me less likely to go shopping than the thought of having to mask up".

He questioned whether police had been consulted about the move because they "will have to enforce this monstrous imposition against myself and a number of outraged and reluctant constituents".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday. (PA)
Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday. (PA)

Sir Desmond addressed his comments to health secretary Matt Hancock who admitted the new rules would represent a “frustrating imposition”.

Mr Hancock replied: "The balance in the need to restrict the spread of the virus, whilst also allowing the ancient liberties of a gentleman to go shopping, is a difficult balance to strike and we have made the judgment that the best way to strike it is to allow a gentleman to go shopping, but require him to wear a face mask.

"And of course, enforcement is for the police, but the enforcement, I think, will largely be undertaken by the British people themselves who have been remarkable in their fortitude, sticking with these rules even whilst they may be a frustrating imposition."

The decision to make face masks mandatory led some Conservative Party members to cut up their membership cards as they posted pictures of chopped-up cards or cancelled Tory registrations.

A recent modelling study from the Universities of Cambridge and Greenwich found that the widespread use of face masks keeps the coronavirus reproduction number below 1.0.

Researchers found that even homemade masks with limited effectiveness can dramatically reduce transmission rates if worn by enough people, regardless of whether they show symptoms.

The government has been under pressure to make face masks mandatory for shoppers in line with several other nations.

But environment secretary George Eustice defended the delay to ordering the mandatory use of face coverings in shops in England on Tuesday.

"The evidence, the understanding, has been evolving,” he told Sky News.

“So the World Health Organization changed their guidance back in June and following that the Government changed its guidance and we recommended that people wear face coverings in enclosed spaces when they're out and about.

"We then sharpened that and made it compulsory for public transport in the middle of June and what we've really got here is, as we loosen the lockdown and allow more venues to open, we need to consider the mix of measures we have in place to limit the transmission and control the virus.

"And that's why we're making this next step, which is to say it's mandatory to wear masks in retail environments."

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