Tue, 16 Jun 2020
As non-essential shops throw open their doors this week, there is a growing sense that life is – however slowly – beginning to return to something closer to normality.
Businesses are waiting to see if shoppers will flock back to the high street and stores have had to adapt to enable social distancing and offer increased protection for staff and customers alike.
Zoos are also welcoming back visitors, places of worship can open for private prayer and some secondary school pupils will also begin returning to their classrooms.
Passengers on public transport will also be required to wear face coverings as the pace of activity begins to pick up with the gradual easing of the lockdown restrictions.
All staff in hospitals in England are being provided with surgical masks which they will be expected to wear from this week, while all hospital visitors and outpatients must also wear face coverings at all times.
The Government has also advised anyone in enclosed spaces, such as shops, to wear a face mask.
However, they have stopped short of making it a legal requirement. So will people wear masks for a trip to the shops? And what does the science say about the effectiveness of face coverings?
A study by the University of Cambridge showed that the R, or reproduction, number – which measures the average number of people that a person with the virus infects – can be kept below the critical figure of 1.0, if enough people wear masks.
Dr Richard Stutt, the study’s lead author, said: "Our analysis supports the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public."
And a review and meta-analysis of 172 studies from across 16 countries and six continents published in The Lancet concluded: "Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection."
Amid the weight of evidence, the World Health Organisation updated its advice earlier this month and called on shoppers and others in enclosed spaces to wear face coverings.
Since the announcement that coverings would be mandatory on public transport, demand for face masks at Co-op stores has outstripped everyday essentials such as bread and milk.
The non-medical grade protective gear, sold for £3, has since become the convenience retailer's best-selling product.