HEALTH Minister Robin Swann has welcomed the NI Executive decision on face coverings.
The initial emphasis will be on education and encouragement.
Minister Swann stated: “I am pleased that the Executive has supported my recommendation. This is in line with the expert advice provided to Ministers by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser.
“We need to promote every available measure to stop the spread of Covid-19 in our community.
“The evidence in support of face coverings in shops and other enclosed spaces has become increasingly compelling.
“It should become second nature to us in the weeks and months ahead. I am confident people will want to do the right thing.
“This is particularly important in light of the fact that shielding is due to be paused from July 31. As people who have been shielding start resuming everyday activities, the wearing of face coverings in shops is a practical way to reassure them and help them keep safe.
“I am also very mindful of the need to protect retail staff.”
The lead-in period before August 20 will allow time for public education and engagement to promote the benefits of face coverings.
A public information campaign will be undertaken and guidance issued to the retail sector. This will detail the exemptions to the measure.
Employees and children under 13 will not be asked to wear the face coverings. Nor will those who cannot wear them on health grounds.
The public information campaign will also reinforce current messaging on social distancing and hand and respiratory hygiene.
“Everyone needs to be aware that wearing face coverings is first and foremost about protecting others,” the Minister added.
“It does not reduce the need to keep our distance and regularly wash our hands. It must not lead to a false sense of security.”