Face masks will become mandatory in shops across England, ministers are to announce on Tuesday, following mixed messages, a cabinet split and mounting pressure on Boris Johnson to change public advice.
New legislation will not come into force until Friday 24 July, however, raising concerns over the risk of coronavirus spreading over the next 10 days as lockdown is eased.
Britons have been among the slowest to embrace mass mask-wearing. Many European countries, including Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece, have already made it compulsory to wear face coverings inside shops. A YouGov poll found that 36% of people in the UK wear a face mask in public places, compared with 86% in Spain, 83% in Italy, 78% in France and 65% in Germany.