State-owned factories have capacity to churn out FIVE MILLION face coverings a week


The National Masks Service: State-owned factories have capacity to churn out FIVE MILLION face coverings a week with Government likely to make it compulsory to wear them in shops ‘within days’

  • Ten factory production lines have been acquired to ensure supply of face masks 
  • Boris Johnson had hinted the face mask requirement could be extended to shops
  • But Michael Gove sparked confusion over official policy on the issue yesterday 

Ministers have bought up capacity to produce five million face masks a week as they prepare to make them compulsory in shops.

Government sources said ten factory production lines have been acquired to ensure there is enough supply if and when the wider use of coverings is made mandatory.

Half of the businesses, in Wales and Burnley, are already in production with the rest to come on stream next week.

Boris Johnson appeared in public wearing a face mask for the first time on Friday night, hours after suggesting the Government would become ‘stricter in insisting that people wear face coverings in confined places’

Sources said the move was to make the UK ‘resilient’ and not reliant on foreign suppliers.

Masks are already compulsory on public transport and the Prime Minister hinted on Friday that the Government is poised to extend the requirement to retail premises to help control the virus spread.

Michael Gove sparked confusion over official policy on the issue yesterday when he said it should not be made mandatory in shops.

But Government sources last night said the Cabinet Office minister’s comments had been misinterpreted – and suggested masks could still be made compulsory in shops within days. 

Boris Johnson appeared in public wearing a face mask for the first time on Friday night, hours after suggesting the Government would become ‘stricter in insisting that people wear face coverings in confined places’.

Masks are already compulsory on public transport and the Prime Minister hinted on Friday that the Government is poised to extend the requirement to retail premises to help control the virus spread

Masks are already compulsory on public transport and the Prime Minister hinted on Friday that the Government is poised to extend the requirement to retail premises to help control the virus spread

But asked if Downing Street was going to make their use mandatory in shops, Mr Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday: ‘I don’t think mandatory, no. But I would encourage people to wear face masks when they’re inside in an environment where they’re likely to be mixing with others and where the ventilation may not be as good as it might. So I think that it is basic good manners, courtesy, consideration to wear a face mask if you are, for example, in a shop.’

A Government source insisted Mr Gove was not signalling a shift in stance, adding: ‘Michael was clear that the situation is under review and that is the position. The PM’s comments still stand.’

London mayor Sadiq Khan, who is campaigning for compulsory mask use, urged ministers to ‘get their act together’. 

He said: ‘Our response is once again behind the rest of the world.’ Mr Gove is also helping oversee the initiative to shore up UK supplies of coverings.

He told Sky News the Government had been ‘investing in significantly increasing the capacity to manufacture face masks in the UK’.

Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope urged ministers not to make masks compulsory, saying he would stop shopping if required to wear one

Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope urged ministers not to make masks compulsory, saying he would stop shopping if required to wear one

A Whitehall source said the Government had now acquired ten production lines, each capable of producing half a million masks per week.

Five are already operating, with the rest expected to complete safety tests within days.

But Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope urged ministers not to make masks compulsory, saying he would stop shopping if required to wear one. 

He said ministers should keep things in perspective and be ‘trying to build confidence about the nature of the risk involved’.

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