Business owners should be allowed to ask that customers wear masks in their shops, a top government adviser has said.
Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said there was no reason why bosses should not be able to refuse to serve customers without face masks after 19 July.
Boris Johnson has fixed 19 July as the end date for England’s lockdown, when social distancing rules will lift and mask-wearing will no longer be the law. All venues, cultural and sporting evens can reopen that day too.
The PM announced the changes on Monday evening, even though coronavirus infections are soaring due to the Delta variant and much of the population has not been fully vaccinated.
Prof Semple told Times Radio on Tuesday: “There’s no reason why businesses which have made their own assessments cannot say, ‘Actually, if you come in here we still want you to wear a mask’.
“They can’t mandate it, but neither are businesses mandated to have to serve you, so if you run a nail bar and you want the clients to wear a face mask, you simply say, ‘You have to wear a face mask if you want to get your nails done’.
“That’s a good example of some direct, personal, face-to-face contact for a good 40 minutes where you don’t want your staff breathing in what Joe Public is breathing on to you.
“I don’t see why public transport companies couldn’t make the same assessment.”
Business groups have demanded the government be clearer on how disease testing, self-isolation, safety and liability will work once the changes come into effect. Bosses “still do not have the full picture they desperately need to plan for unlocking”, the British Chambers of Commerce said.
The new health secretary, Sajid Javid, admitted on Tuesday that new Covid-19 infections could hit 100,000 per day once restrictions are lifted, though experts fear cases could go higher.
Mr Javid also said he would continue to carry a face mask and wear it in crowded spaces.