BORIS Johnson has told people to wear cloth face coverings in shops, on public transport and in some workplaces as he started to ease the coronavirus lockdown.

He confirmed to MPs that some children would be returning to primary school in June and held out the prospect of pubs, restaurants and cinemas reopening with social distancing in place the following month.

His desire to see more people returning to work this week and to reopen a wider range of shops received a mixed reaction.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s public health director Professor Dominic Harrison welcomed the recommendation of face coverings as sensible but overdue.

Blackburn Labour MP Kate Hollern questioned their sudden recommendation and accused the Prime Minister of lacking clarity in his new message to ‘stay alert’ rather than at home.

Hyndburn Tory MP Sara Britcliffe welcomed the face covering change.

Publishing a 50-page ‘road map’ outlining the government’s plans to get out of lockdown, Mr Johnson said the lifting of restrictions could vary between regions and fines for breaking social distancing rules would rise to £100 up to £3,600 for repeated offending.

Sporting events may be allowed to take place behind closed doors from next month and the rules on meeting family members from other households and going out are to be relaxed.

Mr Johnson said: “Our challenge is to find a way forward that preserves our hard won gains, while easing the burden of lockdown. I’ll be candid, this is a supremely difficult balance to strike.”

Mr Harrison said: “I welcome that the government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces.

“Wearing a cloth mask over the face – particularly in enclosed public space such as on public transport, in workplaces and shopping - will help each of us reduce the collective risks of virus spread across the whole community.

“We do seem to be often behind the international scientific consensus on adopting what seems to many quite self-evidently sensible control measures.

“I welcome the guidance that people may exercise outside as many times each day as they wish as this will be increasingly important for health.

“However, I do not welcome the recommendation that people may drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance.

"I think this risks importing high -transmission risks into low-risk areas and will make it very difficult to manage, monitor or police movement of cars and people.

"What should continue to be the key message is ‘Stay at home unless you are out and about on a permitted activity’.

“I think the ‘Stay Alert’ message is not particularly clear.

“I would urge us all to remember as we exercise our new freedoms that we need to continue to do our best to protect others.”

Blackburn Labour MP Kate Hollern said: “We all recognise what difficult decisions need to be made but the public want clarity and reassurance.

"The people of Blackburn and across the country have by and large stuck by the clear simple message to stay at home – this is why the spread of the virus has slowed.

“I therefore fail to understand the move away from this to a message full of contradictions.

“I am concerned that the PM is now saying people should wear ‘cloth’ face coverings when in enclosed public spaces when at no point in the past eight weeks has this been the instruction. What has changed?

“One of the issues that concerns me most however, is that the police will be unable to enforce the more relaxed movement restrictions.

"Larger fines are meaningless if people are now allowed to travel as far as they like in a car.

“The public are perfectly capable of using common sense but if the government’s message is confused so will they be."

Hyndburn Conservative MP Sara Britcliffe said: “The Prime Minister advised people to consider wearing face coverings when outside the home especially if indoors, and where someone might come into close contact with people not from their household.

"There is some scientific evidence to show that simple homemade face coverings can make a difference in protecting us from the spread of coronavirus. I would encourage my constituents to consider this simple step.”

READ MORE: Public urged to wear face coverings in shops and on public transport

Ribble Valley Tory MP Nigel Evans, president of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, said: “The Prime Minister’s announcement was a tentative easement and not a lifting of the lockdown. The keyword must be caution.

“It is looking like hospitality may be one of the last sectors to reopen. Hospitality businesses must continue to be supported so they can survive the current crisis and once restrictions on the sector are lifted are still able to welcome visitors to the Ribble Valley and Lancashire, which in turn supports so many jobs in the local area.”

Burnley Conservative MP Antony Higginbotham said: “It’s essential that we now put work into preparing the country for opening back up and getting the economy functioning which is how we can protect livelihoods. I welcome the roadmap which is a vital part of that."