Bookshop chain Waterstones said it will still encourage customers to wear masks and social distance in its stores beyond July 19.

England's move to step four of the government's lockdown-easing roadmap on Monday will see social distancing rules and limits on social contact removed across the country.

The legal requirement to wear face masks in shops and on public transport will be lifted.

But ministers will recommend that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded areas such as on trains, trams and buses.

News Shopper: The legal requirement to wear face masks in shops will be lifted next weekThe legal requirement to wear face masks in shops will be lifted next week

It comes after a strong backlash against ministers’ plans to no longer legally compel people to wear masks in certain settings.

Waterstones today said it would be encouraging people to still wear masks.

In a message on Twitter, the chain said: "Following the lift of restrictions on 19 July across England, we will observe new government guidance.

"Given our enclosed browsing environment, we encourage our customers to wear face masks and observe social distancing, respecting the safety of staff and fellow book lovers."

And the message was met with mixed reaction, with some claiming they will boycott the shop from now on.

Julia Hartley-Brewer, talkRADIO Breakfast Show presenter, replied: "I make a point of buying books at my local Waterstones rather than ordering on Amazon because I want bookstores to thrive, but if I go into your store and a member of staff asks me to wear a mask, you will lose my business forever."

Another Twitter user said: "I agree with your right to impose your own rules. Sadly I will still be avoiding your shop as I have throughout lockdown as I can't enjoy browsing books with steamed up specs.

"I shall look forward to being able to resume my browsing once masks are a thing of the past."


Others thanked the book store, with one writing: "I love Waterstones, I love books, I love masks. (And I the thought of a book shop free from mouth breathing libertarians.)"

And another said: "I haven’t been in a physical bookstore for a long time, but will go out of my way now to have a good browse in Waterstones."

On Monday, the UK reported 34,471 new COVID-19 cases and six more coronavirus-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period. It is the sixth day in a row where total cases have been more than 30,000.

Mr Javid told MPs it was the "right time" to go to step four, adding: "If not now, when? There will never be a perfect time to take this step because we simply cannot eradicate this virus."

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Speaking later at a Downing Street news conference, Boris Johnson said it was "absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution".

"I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough: this pandemic is not over," the prime minister said.

"This disease, coronavirus, continues to carry risks for you and your family.

"We cannot simply revert instantly, from Monday 19 July, to life as it was before COVID."

Some of the reaction:

  • What do you think? Will you keep wearing a mask after next week?