Wearing a mask will now be compulsory in shops in England from Friday July 24.

Previously, people were only advised to masks when in enclosed public spaces.

The move will bring England in line with major European nations such as Spain and Germany, and indeed our close Scottish neighbours.

People caught flouting the new law could face fines of up to £100.

Hopefully, that measure won’t be necessary for most Cumbrians, as residents of the county have already shown how considerate and responsible they are when it comes to curbing the spread of coronavirus.

As we report on page six of today's Westmorland Gazette, Cumbria's director of public health, Colin Cox, has welcomed the new legislation, saying: "At this point in the epidemic it’s probably a sensible decision.”

He added that the NHS is fighting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and that mandatory face masks will support the effort at a crucial time.

“We’re at the point where we’re in a good place but the risk is very strong and we cannot let things slip.

“The really important thing is getting people to remember the virus is still out there.

“We may have started to ease the lockdown but people shouldn’t think it’s all over.”

There have been some naysayers, particularly on social media, who have said the new rule is oppressive, and that the Government is over-reaching by dictating to us something that should be a personal choice.

Others have also pointed out that the science on the effectiveness of masks is so far unsure.

However, in the grand scheme of things, being made to wear a mask is no great curtailing of individual liberty, particularly when easing lockdown guidelines allows us so much more freedom than before.

Furthermore, even if the science is not yet settled - we must do everything we can to halt the spread of this deadly virus, even if there is only a slim chance our actions will help. Looking slightly silly in a mask is a small price to pay for the continued relaxing of lockdown guidelines, and each precaution we take is another step towards regaining our pre-coronavirus freedoms.