By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The new ruling comes on the day of the biggest reopening of cinemas since lockdown began, with exhibition giant Cineworld reopening all of its site across the U.K.
The ongoing debate about face masks has taken another turn in England, where they are now set to be made mandatory in cinemas as authorities attempt to hold back an anticipated second wave of COVID-19 infections.
The ruling — announced Friday — is currently just a recommendation but will be legally enforced from August 8, and will also include other indoor venues such as museums, galleries and places of worship.
It also comes just as U.K. cinemas begin to open their doors for the first time since the country went into lockdown in late March. The ban was lifted earlier in July, with a handful of venues reopening across the country. Friday sees the biggest relaunch to date, with exhibition giant Cineworld, which owns Regal in the U.S., reopening its 99 cinemas.
The face mask ruling contradicts comments and rulings made by the exhibition industry. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in June, Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger said he would not be making face masks compulsory for his customers. In its official health and safety guidelines, published in June ahead of cinema reopening, the U.K. Cinema Association did not include making face masks mandatory.
The new announcement was made just as U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson said that a further easing of lockdown measures, due to take place Aug. 1, was being pushed back by at least two weeks. Several areas of the country that have seen recent COVID-19 spikes are facing new restrictions on movement and social gatherings.
On Thursday, a new study revealed that the U.K. had experienced Europe’s worst surge in death rates during the pandemic.