THE Northern Echo asked its readers for their thoughts about new rules which will see face masks and face coverings mandatory in shops and supermarkets next week.

From Friday, July 24, shoppers in England will be required to wear a face covering while visiting shops, or face a hefty fine of up to £100 enforced by the local police force.

But The Echo's readers have been left divided since the rules were announced yesterday and have commented in their hundreds across our social media channels and on our website.

Here's what some of them had to say...

'Just wear one, simple'

On social media, Vikki Baldwin said: "The way I look at it is if I can prevent the transmission of the virus by wearing a mask and I prevent someone from getting covid I'm happy to wear them.

"Yes there's loads of conflicting info but it does prevent you passing via droplets bit washing hands and sanitising them is more important.

"With all of these precautions in place we can stop another family grieving for a loved one I really don't see why there is even a debate just wear one simple."

Concerned over the risk of a second wave of coronavirus infections, Sharon Geldart said: "Yes if it can prevent a second wave and infecting people also keeping yourself safe the 100 percent yes. I have been anyway."

'Better late than never'

Kathleen Hudson said: "Hey get a grip people, if it helps to protect you and others just wear one for goodness sake.

"Better late than never, better safe than sorry all come to mind. Common sense really."

'It's only for the duration of a shop visit'

But others are not so keen on the new rules, with some suggesting such measures were introduced 'too far' after the coronavirus outbreak began.

Elizabeth Arrowsmith said: "For those of us who are able to wear one then yes. It's only for the duration of a shop visit. I feel for everyone who has to wear one for the whole shift at work."

'This is too late'

David 'Rigsy' King said: "Will all staff members be required to wear masks as well?

"I also think this is too late, should have been mandatory from the get-go. It may not have been scientifically validated, but it seems like common sense, and it is always better to err on the side of caution."

'I won't be going shopping'

Debbie Langston said: "It’s a little too late I don’t see the logic in it to be honest when we can still social distance in shops, but not pubs or restaurants where you don’t have to wear them.

"They (will) be all lying round the streets and they (shops) will run out of stock just like the toilet rolls incident.

"I certainly won’t be going shopping into town. Just when we think things are turning a corner and going back to normal they decide to bring this crazy rule in."

'I would prefer customers did not wear them'

Paul Maddison, who owns and runs his own shop, said he preferred his customers did not wear them.

He said: "I would prefer my customers did not wear them. I handle devices given to me from the customer after they have handled their mask.

"I have a screen up - but I'm now potentially getting concentrated Covid all over the device given to me."

Meanwhile Dawn Gillott raised concerns over their use on individuals who may feel claustrophobic.

She said: "What about people who have health issues like anxiety or panic attacks or claustrophobic."