THE boss of East Lancashire's biggest retail complex has joined public health bosses in urging people to obey government instructions to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets which came into force today.

Loraine Jones, general manager of The Mall Blackburn, said many of its customers were already following local advice to don masks while on its premises.

Lancashire's public health director Dr Sakthi Karunanithi urged shoppers to adhere to the new ruling, to stop the spread of coronavirus.

His Blackburn with Darwen counterpart Professor Dominic Harrison, who has been advising borough residents to wear face coverings in all enclosed public spaces since a sharp spike in borough Covid-19 infections 11 days ago, has welcomed the new national crackdown backed by a fine of up to £100.

The tough new restrictions mean face coverings must be worn in shops, supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, train and bus stations, airports, take-aways, banks, building societies and post offices.

Restaurants, pubs and gyms will be exempt and the new rules do not apply to children under 11 and those with disabilities or health conditions such as breathing difficulties.

Ms Jones said: “We welcomed the news that face coverings were to become compulsory in shops when it was announced earlier this month. We have already seen an increase in people wearing face coverings in The Mall since Blackburn with Darwen Council issued localised advice, which is great.

“We’ve been supporting the council to communicate the importance of adhering to the new rules and I am sure people will adapt to the latest change in this temporary new normal.”

Prof Harrison said: "Scientific evidence suggests face coverings help prevent you from passing coronavirus on to other people if you are sick.

"We lobbied Government early as we know wearing a face covering is an important control measure. By wearing a face covering, the principal works in that you protect me and I protect you. We know that the main route of spread is from people who have no symptoms, touching surfaces and then touching your face and eyes. Asking everyone to wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces has made Blackburn with Darwen even more Covid safe."

Dr Karunanithi said: “I’d ask everyone to follow the Government’s instructions on face coverings. We must stop the spread of the virus and by taking this simple measure, alongside the other guidance on social distancing, hand washing and getting tested if you have symptoms, we can keep people safe."

He added:“We are carefully monitoring the situation in Pendle, and other areas in Lancashire where positive cases have been reported, and I would like to thank everyone for their efforts so far.”

Prof Harrison said: "The guidance says you don’t need to wear a face covering if you are eating or drinking but it is advised that people wear a covering when not eating/drinking.

"The environment secretary George Eustice has said that face masks will not be made compulsory in pubs/restaurants. We want to go further than this and ask people to wear face coverings wherever practical to do so in enclosed spaces."