Workers will not be ordered to wear face masks in offices, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.
From 24 July, the wearing of a face covering will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England, with a fine of up to £100 for those who do not comply.
Blackburn with Darwen Council, which is teetering on the edge of a local lockdown due to a spike in coronavirus cases, has recommended people wear face coverings in all enclosed public spaces for the next month.
The council said this includes all shops, workplaces, libraries, museums, health centres and hair and beauty salons.
But Mr Hancock said similar action would not be taken to compel people to wear masks in offices across England.
“We will not be recommending masks in the office, but I respect what Blackburn have done,” he told Sky News’ Kay [email protected] show.
“In fact, Blackburn has taken action locally because their rates of positive cases are higher than many other places around the country.”
The health secretary said the number of coronavirus cases in Blackburn was “not as high” as Leicester, which has seen the UK’s first full local lockdown.
But he added they are still “higher than the national average”.
“The council in Blackburn are doing a fantastic job at taking local action themselves to try to tackle the problems in Blackburn,” he said.
On Tuesday, Mr Hancock’s cabinet colleagues Liz Truss and Michael Gove were both pictured entering the same branch of sandwich shop Pret A Manger in Westminster.
But while Ms Truss donned a face mask, Mr Gove did not when he entered just minutes later.
Asked which of the pair was correctly following government guidance, Mr Hancock replied: “The advice until 24 July – giving businesses time to make sure they can get their processes in place and make sure we can implement this smoothly – the advice now is that face coverings are recommended in shops but not mandatory.
“That’s been the position for some time and we are tightening that up to say that they are mandatory from 24 July.”
From 24 July, customers such as Mr Gove will need to wear a face mask in Pret branches because it is classed as a shop, Mr Hancock added.
“In hospitality, in a restaurant, there needs to be table service,” he said.
“If there is table service, then it is not necessary to have a mask. But in any shop you do need a mask.
“So, if you’re going up to the counter in Pret to buy takeaway, that is a shop – that is Pret operating as a shop.”