Shoppers have been told by the Government they are expected to wear masks from Monday when they will no longer be required by law in a coronavirus policy criticised as a “real mess”.
New guidance on workplace safety for when most restrictions in England end was published as regional mayors urged ministers to keep masks compulsory on public transport in England.
Table service is recommended to continue in bars, while pubs, restaurants and nightclubs are encouraged to check vaccine and testing status as a condition of entry through the NHS Covid Pass.
Boris Johnson previously suggested so-called vaccine passports would only be recommended in “nightclubs and other venues with large crowds”.
Both unions and employers criticised the guidance for Step 4 of the Prime Minister’s plan to end the lockdown, with the TUC calling it a “recipe for chaos and rising infections”.
“So what they have now published, just a few days before it comes into force, provides no assurances for staff or employers. It is a real mess.
“Protection for retail workers through wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing in busy public areas like shops should be backed up by the law.”
Dr Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said bosses are “understandably confused” as he criticised “a series of mixed messages and patchwork requirements”.
“Return to work or continue to stay at home. Throw away your masks or continue to wear them. Today’s long-awaited guidance from Government has done little to dispel that confusion,” he said.
Sainsbury’s said it would encourage customers to continue wearing masks in its supermarkets, with the workplace guidance on masks stating it does not just apply to staff.
“Face coverings are no longer required by law,” it adds.
“However, the Government expects and recommends that people continue to wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces.”
Criticism of the guidance came as the Prime Minister came under increasing pressure to reverse his plan to end the legal requirement for masks.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said their use would be enforced on the capital’s public transport as a “condition of carriage”, in a move backed by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
Labour metro mayors for West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, North of Tyne, West of England and South Yorkshire also said they would require or encourage the use of masks on their transport networks where their limited powers allowed it.
But they warned that without a continued national mandate there would be a “ridiculous mismatch” of rules across the country that will be “confusing” for passengers.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “We remain of the view that the best solution is for the Government to maintain a requirement of face coverings on all modes of public transport and we call on them, even at this stage, to return to that position.”
Masks are to remain mandatory in Scotland and Wales.
The change for those returning to England, Scotland and Wales from Spain’s Balearic Islands will take place at 4am of Monday, potentially sparking a rush for holidaymakers to return to avoid the need to quarantine.
Younger adults will mainly be impacted because the alteration coincides with the end of the need to quarantine for fully-vaccinated UK residents and under 18s when returning from amber list nations.
Bulgaria and Hong Kong will be added to the green list – meaning there is no requirement to isolate on return for any travellers regardless of the vaccination status.
Croatia and Taiwan will be added to the “green watchlist”, meaning there is no need for anyone to quarantine but they are at risk of going amber.
The changes to the Balearics will mainly affect younger adults because they are far less likely to have received both jabs and therefore will not benefit from the incoming exemption.
But the Government also reported the highest daily rise in coronavirus cases since January 15 when an extra 42,302 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK were announced.
A further 49 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the official total to 128,530.