Once reserved for Halloween and the occasional masquerade ball, 2020 has seen masks become commonplace. Indeed, from 24 July, the humble mask will become even more ubiquitous, as the government has ruled that every shop-goer in England must wear one or risk a £100 fine.
Since mid-May, the general public has been strongly advised to wear masks in enclosed public spaces, especially when they may encounter people they would not usually. Masks have been mandatory on public transport from 15 June.
The new rules, in which face coverings are no longer optional in shops and supermarkets, has brought England into line with Scottish policy, which has demanded shoppers wear masks since last Friday.
George Eustice, the environment secretary, noted: "It is about managing the overall risk; any type of covering will be sufficient for this purpose."
He continued: "With all of our laws there is an element of policing by consent and so we need the public to play their part and abide by the restrictions."
According to Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary: "The government has been slow and muddled again.”
He continued: "many will ask why yet again have ministers been slow in making a decision in this pandemic".
An ONS survey indicated that over one half of adults surveyed wore a face covering when they were outside of their own home.
A “reasonable” worse case scenario, in a report requested by the government's chief scientific adviser, has suggested that the UK could see around 120,000 deaths in hospitals this winter as a result of Covid-19.