A Government ruling to make face coverings mandatory in shops and supermarkets has been backed by Cumbria’s director of public health, who believes it could help to hold off a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing the concerns of a second wave and the rise in cases in Carlisle, director for public health Colin Cox said: “The area that’s most of concern is Carlisle.”

Although the cases are rising, Mr Cox insisted the number of confirmed cases is proportionately low.

He said: “It’s still at the low levels so I’m not massively concerned about it at the minute, but it is rising. We’re keeping an eye on that.”

While the UK Government continues to reopen society in phases, a decision has been made to make wearing face coverings when shopping mandatory from July 24.

Mr Cox has backed the move: “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.”

However, Mr Cox was cautiously optimistic: “The most significant easing of lockdown was last Saturday. I think most people are handling this really well.

"We have seen one or two incidents where that’s not been happening, and that is a concern.”

He added that the result of eased restrictions is yet to be seen.

“If there is going to be a rise in cases we’ll see that towards the end of this week,” he warned.

Yesterday, Mr Cox noted that, should the public neglect the guidelines, there is a risk that coronavirus will hit a second wave.

“It’s going to be really important for us to enlist everybody’s support in maintaining the physical distancing and taking all the hygiene precautions that we’re advising," he said, "in order to bring that number back down because we don’t want to see a second wave of this hitting us come autumn or winter.”