Senior minister Michael Gove has said he does not think face coverings should be compulsory in shops in England, saying he trusts people’s “good sense”.
It is understood ministers are considering whether to make mask use mandatory in shops and sources say the issue is being kept under review.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Mr Gove said wearing a mask in a shop was “basic good manners”.
His comments follow calls for clarity from the government on face coverings.
Currently, face coverings are compulsory on public transport in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, they are also mandatory in shops. Wales recommends masks but they are not compulsory.
However, there have been calls for the UK government to make its stance on masks clearer, following comments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday.
Mr Johnson – who was pictured wearing a mask for the first time during a visit to his constituency – said: “I do think we need to be stricter in insisting people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don’t normally meet.”
Asked about the issue on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Gove said: “I don’t think mandatory, no, but I would encourage people to wear face masks when they are inside, in an environment where they are likely to be mixing with others and where the ventilation may not be as good as it might.
“I think that it is basic good manners, courtesy and consideration, to wear a face mask if you are, for example, in a shop.”
The Cabinet Office minister added: “Now of course the government at all times does look at the emerging evidence about what the best way to control the disease is.
“If necessary, and if tough measures are required and as we have seen in Leicester, obviously a very different situation, then tough measures will be taken.
“But on the whole… it’s always best to trust people’s common sense.”
Shadow cabinet office minister Rachel Reeves said Labour would support mandatory face coverings for shops, as it “would inspire greater confidence to go into shops”.
She called for “greater clarity from the government”.
Senior government sources have previously said that while no decision has yet been made on face masks, it is an issue that is being kept under review.