Boris Johnson has said the government will make an announcement “in the next few days” on whether face coverings should be mandatory when people are in shops to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

During a visit to the London Ambulance Service on Monday morning, the Prime Minister sought to clear up mixed messages over the wearing of masks from the government.

On Sunday, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, had told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme that face masks in shops shouldn't be mandatory.

It appeared to be a message at odds with what the Prime Minister had been saying about the potential value of wearing face masks in shops.

Mr Johnson said of face coverings: "They have a great deal of value in confined spaces where you're coming into contact with people you don't normally meet.

“The scientific evaluation of face coverings and their importance on stopping aerosol droplets, that’s been growing, so I do think that in shops it is very important to wear a face covering if you’re going to be in a confined space and you want to protect other people and receive protection in turn.

“Yes, face coverings, I think people should be wearing in shops, and in terms of how we do that – whether we will be making that mandatory or not – we will be looking at the guidance, we will be saying a little bit more in the next few days.”

Mr Johnson added: “We will be looking in the next few days about exactly how, with what tools of enforcement, we think we want to make progress (over coronavirus).

“As the virus comes down in incidence and we have more and more success, I think face coverings are a kind of extra insurance we can all use to stop it coming back and stop it getting out of control again.

“To be absolutely clear I do think that face coverings do have a real value in confined spaces and I do think the public understand that.”

Face coverings are currently mandatory on public transport in England and at hairdressing salons.

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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said a formal review is under way into whether masks should be made mandatory in public places in England.

At a briefing with reporters on Monday, he said there is further evidence about the “benefits of face coverings in some environments indoors”.

The Number 10 official added: “A formal review is taking place and we will be discussing it with scientific advisers this week and setting out a final position in the next few days.”

Face masks are currently mandatory on public transport

Asked whether there is new evidence behind Boris Johnson’s thinking, the spokesman said: “I’ve always said we would keep this under review and so have the experts who advise the government.”

Earlier, the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said he would “perhaps” support making the wearing of masks in public mandatory.

Asked on the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme whether he is in the “mandatory perhaps” or “mandatory never” camp, he said: “I think I’m ‘mandatory perhaps’.

“Wearing them in an enclosed space where you’ve got lots of people, for example a busy shop, seems to be sensible" he replied.

“It is all about increasing confidence. I think the more of us who do the courteous and responsible thing, the more people you’ll see venture out into shops.”