WEARING face coverings in shops and supermarkets in England is set to become mandatory from July 24.

In new measures announced on Monday, those who fail to comply will face a fine of up to £100.

But why is it so important that everyone wears a mask?

The answer to that question goes far beyond just ensuring one’s own safety, says Dr Ed Wernick, the GP leading Farnham’s response to Covid-19.

“Face masks can be thought of in a similar vein to walking sticks – yes, some of the reason for having one is to help the user directly but it also goes further in that it signpost information to others and changes their behaviour. They give you more physical space and time,” he said.

“Seeing others wearing face masks will be a cue for yourself to adhere to the new way of life rather than easily slipping back into old habits. I saw one lady taking the top of a bottle of moisturiser smelling it and putting it back on the shelf. It was shocking to see.”

Since mid-May, the public have been advised to wear coverings in enclosed public spaces, and it has been compulsory on public transport in England since June 15.

However, Dr Wernick recognised that constantly-shifting information from the authorities could lead to some confusion.

He said: “It is becoming increasingly complex to know and navigate all the different scenarios. Luckily in medicine there has been little change over the past few weeks, which is very welcome.”

“If you’re going shopping you have to wear a face mask – but you presently don’t when in a pub? Why would a pub and a restaurant be different to a shop from a risk perspective?

“On that single topic of wearing face masks in shops, it does give clarity – there is a £100 fine, you have to do it.

“But there are many different scenarios where there is lack of clarity, and it is becoming a bit of a maze to navigate.”

Looking to the future, Dr Wernick highlighted the return to schools in September.

Speaking of his own experience, he gave praise to Weydon School, which released a Powerpoint presentation of its plans for students’ return.

“They’ve really thought about all aspects – class bubbles, staggering drop-offs and pick-ups, etc,” he said.

“It was clear with enough detail – I was very impressed.”