Coronavirus: Michael Gove photographed in Pret without a face mask, despite telling public it is 'good sense'

Professor of public health attacks 'very destructive' behaviour - adding to 'very confused' government advice

'I trust people’s good sense': Face coverings will not be made in compulsory in shops, Michael Gove says

Michael Gove is under fire for failing to wear a face covering while shopping – two days after telling the public it is “good sense” to do so.

On Sunday, the cabinet office minister told TV viewers: “It is basic good manners, courtesy and consideration to wear a face mask if, for example, you are in a shop.”

Yet, on Tuesday, he was photographed in a branch of Pret a Manger without a mask, even as his cabinet colleague Liz Truss’s face was covered up as she bought her breakfast.

A professor of public health said Mr Gove’s behaviour was “very destructive” to what was already “very confused” government messaging.

“When people see politicians adding to the confusion, they throw their hands up in the air and say ‘Why should I bother?’ Gabriel Scally told The Independent.

And Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, said: “Michael Gove's refusal to wear a mask today will simply lead to more accusations that it is one rule for the government, and one for everyone else.”

The controversy came after Mr Gove was left embarrassed when Boris Johnson overruled him and announced mask-wearing in shops in England will be compulsory – from 24 July.

Ministers were already facing criticism for delaying the crackdown by 10 days, after days of confusion over the policy.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, of the British Medical Association, said: “This needs to happen immediately given that each day that goes by adds to the risk of spread [of Covid-19] and endangers lives.”

Face coverings in public places where people cannot safely socially distance was already the norm in more than 120 countries, including many in Europe, he said.

And former chief scientific adviser David King said: “Every one of these decisions is coming extraordinarily late – as soon as shops were open to us this should have been put in place.”

Professor Scally urged Mr Gove to make amends by admitting he was in the wrong and by “going out to buy masks for himself and his family”.

“Politicians seem to like to say what’s good for the population as a whole, but then don’t follow that advice themselves,” he said.

“We should be able to look to our politicians as role models, exemplars in the behaviour that we need to control this pandemic and get through it the best we can.”

And Ms Wilson said: “Whilst we wait for this change to come into place, the government should not only be encouraging people to wear face coverings, but leading by example. Michael Gove, it seems, is capable of neither.”

People who fail to comply with the new requirement will risk a fine of up to £100, although the Police Federation warned that would be “nigh-on impossible” to enforce.

George Eustice, the environment secretary, defended the 24 July timetable as necessary “for retailers to put in place measures to encourage people to do this, or potentially even to have some masks themselves if people haven't got one”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in