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Swann ‘unconvinced’ enough people will wear face coverings in shops voluntarily

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to make the measure mandatory by August 20 if 70-80% of shoppers do not comply voluntarily.

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Stormont’s health minister Robin Swann said he ‘would be delighted to be proved wrong’ (David Young/PA)

Stormont’s health minister Robin Swann said he ‘would be delighted to be proved wrong’ (David Young/PA)

Stormont’s health minister Robin Swann said he ‘would be delighted to be proved wrong’ (David Young/PA)

Stormont’s health minister is “unconvinced” that enough people will wear face coverings in shops without being forced.

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to make the measure mandatory by August 20 if 70-80% of shoppers do not comply voluntarily.

A public information campaign to encourage the use of face coverings will be launched.

Robin Swann said: “I remain unconvinced that the necessary level of compliance will be achieved without some element of enforcement.

“That said, I would be delighted to be proved wrong on that front.

“The onus is on everyone on all of the sides of the debate to work together to achieve our shared objective.”

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A public information campaign to encourage the use of face coverings will be launched (Andrew Matthews/PA)

A public information campaign to encourage the use of face coverings will be launched (Andrew Matthews/PA)

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A public information campaign to encourage the use of face coverings will be launched (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Research has shown face coverings can help prevent the spread of coronavirus from an infected person.

Scotland has already made them mandatory in shops while similar rules came into force in England on Friday.

Mr Swann said the medical and scientific advice was clear – wearing face coverings in shops will help protect others.

However, there is a strong consensus that face coverings should be worn in shops and other relevant indoor settingsRobin Swann

He added: “It should not be a surprise to anyone that at times there are different views, both in wider society and around the Executive table, and that compromises are often required.

“However, there is a strong consensus that face coverings should be worn in shops and other relevant indoor settings.

“The key issue here is how best this can be achieved.”

On Friday, another 15 Covid-19 infections but no new deaths were announced by the Department of Health.

Lockdown has eased in recent weeks as the spread of the virus has been limited.

Stormont ministers have agreed that pools, spas, community centres, bowling alleys and funfairs can accept visitors.

Some hotel swimming pools reopened in Northern Ireland on Friday.

Clayton Hotel in Belfast made its pool and gym available to all guests.

It said: “Limited spaces are available in line with government guidelines.

“Bookings can be made at check-in.”

Restricted opening hours will apply.

Leisure centres within Belfast are preparing to reopen to all swimmers.

Adrian Walker is a senior official involved in the process.

He said a one-way system will be introduced and users will have to book a slot online to ensure numbers do not exceed social distancing capacity.

Lanes will be double-spaced, Mr Walker told Q Radio.

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