Don’t wait until July 24 to wear a face covering – York health leaders are urging residents and visitors.
There is “mounting evidence for the value of wearing face coverings”, the city’s director of public health Sharon Stoltz said.
And York should not wait for government guidance to kick in before encouraging people to wear masks, scarves or bandanas to cover their mouth and nose while in shops.
The Government says wearing face coverings in stores will be compulsory from July 24 with £100 fines for people who refuse a mask – and shops can call police to enforce the rule.
The move could also inspire confidence in shoppers and give the economy a boost – members of the city’s outbreak control board said.
Ms Stoltz said: “I would ask residents not to wait until 24 July and start wearing face coverings now in all public spaces.
“There is growing evidence that face coverings can stop the spread of coronavirus and I would urge residents to play their part and wear a face covering when out and about.”
Dr Andrew Lee, a director at NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The evidence is increasingly clear on this.
“There is a benefit – if someone’s got an infection, they might be asymptomatic and a face covering is going to reduce likelihood of them transmitting an infection.”
He said businesses and the health service will benefit because staff will be less likely to catch the virus.
Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID, also backed the plans, saying: “Unless people come into the city centre in much larger numbers in the next couple of months, we are going to see serious amounts of businesses failing.
“The overwhelming thing we need is public confidence.”
But he warned that if shops are expected to provide disposable masks it will be an extra cost for businesses and there could be issues with supplies of masks.
Police to support shops
Lisa Winward, chief constable of North Yorkshire Police, said forces are waiting for guidance from government on enforcing the rule – which has not yet been made law.
She highlighted the difficulties shop owners and staff may face if a customer is not wearing a face covering, saying: “If you ask people and you explain it’s for health reasons, generally you won’t get that kick back.
“And if they do get a kick back, absolutely from a policing perspective, we will go and support those local people.”
GP Dr Sally Tyrer added: “You will probably find that the public will be keen to start frequenting businesses if they feel safer and know that a good number of people are going to wear masks.
“The vast majority of people can do that without difficulty.
“There are a small handful of people that will really struggle and it’s about not making them feel ostracised and unsafe to leave home.”
Face coverings can be a scarf, homemade mask or reusable or disposable mask. Advice is to wash hands before and after use and wash reusable coverings regularly.