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‘Hard to justify’ how shoppers would have excuse to sing to escape mask-wearing

Masks are required on public transport and in shops, and under Plan B will become compulsory in most public indoor venues from Friday.

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Shoppers wearing face masks outside a supermarket ( Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Shoppers wearing face masks outside a supermarket ( Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Shoppers wearing face masks outside a supermarket ( Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Downing Street has said it would be “hard to justify” shoppers having a “reasonable excuse” to remove their masks to sing in supermarkets under new Plan B rules.

Officials had earlier suggested that to the letter of the law under new regulations, shoppers could be allowed to remove their face coverings in supermarkets if they walked around the store singing.

Under Plan B, which was enacted by the Prime Minister on Wednesday, face coverings will become compulsory in most public indoor venues from Friday, including cinemas, theatres and places of worship, but not gyms, bars or restaurants.

Masks are already required on public transport and in shops.

But Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that there was an exemption for singing.

This was mainly seen as being applicable to places of worship where a mask should be worn during the service but could be removed to sing carols or hymns.

But officials said on Thursday this would also be applicable to other indoor settings.

Asked whether a shopper could therefore remove their mask in Tesco if they were singing, it was confirmed that would be within the rules, as would removing the mask to sing in a theatre.

But officials stressed there needed to be a “reasonable excuse” so singing in the supermarket would be pushing the limits of the law.

These rules are set to be balanced and proportionate, we’ve seen how the public are responsible ... and we’re confident they will continue to be soPrime Minister’s official spokesman

And on Thursday afternoon the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We were absolutely clear there is a reasonable excuse required for someone who is seeking to do that.

“Whilst it wouldn’t be for me to say, I think it would be hard to justify. These rules are set to be balanced and proportionate, we’ve seen how the public are responsible … and we’re confident they will continue to be so.

“It might be for the police to decide what is appropriate, as has been the case throughout the pandemic.”

Earlier, the spokesman said: “I would urge, as the public has been throughout, to be responsible and sensible, and that is what we have seen.”

He said: “It’s about striking the right balance. We recognise that whenever you’re deciding which measures or restrictions to introduce, you do need to draw appropriate balance.”

He added that it was “practical and sensible” to put the measures in place.

Masks do not need to be worn in hospitality settings, even if the person is not eating or drinking.

And under Plan B people are being told to work from home if they can from next week, but Mr Johnson said it was still possible for Christmas parties to go ahead.

And the guidance would not stop colleagues gathering at a pub to do their jobs.

Officials confirmed there was nothing within the rules to stop colleagues meeting at a pub to work, with the focus being on reducing the transmission risk from the commute and within the workplace.

It would be up to employers and employees to decide how to interpret the new guidance.

But the advice is that if a worker does not need to go into the office, they should work from home, in order to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Obviously, we have, sadly, been in this position before and employers and employee, by and large, have demonstrated that they’re able to work together and come up with an agreement recognising both business need and also the needs of individuals and personal life circumstances.”

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