The new mask mandate for shops and public transport cannot be left to retail to enforce, one of Britain’s top supermarket bosses warned last night.
From tomorrow, police will be given the power to issue people with fines of between £200 and £6,400 if face coverings are not worn on trains, buses and tubes and in shops, banks and post offices.
Boris Johnson, however, did not announce the new rules for indoor hospitality, which include pubs, restaurants and theatres as well as cinemas.
Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland (pictured in July with Prince Charles), said that his employees on the floor would not be asked for assistance if they see a rule-breaker.
While it isn’t known why ministers made this decision, experts believe they were not trying to affect the hospitality industry which had suffered severe economic losses from the pandemic. However, scientists stated that masks in pubs wouldn’t be practical.
Richard Walker, Iceland’s managing director, stated that his employees on the floor cannot be asked for assistance if they see a rule-breaker.
He told the Mail: ‘We fully support the reintroduction of compulsory face masks in shops, however we won’t be asking our store colleagues to police it.
‘Our store teams, alongside all retail workers, have shown heroic efforts in terms of ensuring safety for customers and building back consumer confidence and it’s crucial that we stay focused on the long-term recovery of the high street.
‘We need to continue to encourage people to shop in stores if they feel comfortable, and I’m hopeful that the latest guidelines won’t discourage customers from doing so.’
From tomorrow, police will be given the power to issue people with fines of between £200 and £6,400 if face coverings are not worn on trains, buses and tubes and in shops, banks and post offices (file image)
The British Retail Consortium said it is up to the police to enforce the measure, adding: ‘Customers are asked to respect the rules and be considerate to their fellow shoppers and to hard-working shop staff.’
The Co-op chain said: ‘As throughout the pandemic, we support our customers wearing a face covering when shopping in our stores. It’s not our place to enforce face coverings or to refuse to serve a customer who chooses not to wear one.’
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: ‘We are helping retailers to prepare for the change in face covering rules, but they are extremely concerned about abuse against their staff from customers who don’t want to wear a face covering.
‘We urge all customers to be respectful towards shop workers during this time and remember they don’t set the policy, they’re just doing their job by communicating it.’
Dr Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, said: ‘We have been through all of this before with the Alpha and Delta variants. But the main difference is that the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of masks and social distancing has increased – and there is more conviction now amongst scientists that these measures do work to reduce the spread of the virus.’
A paper presented earlier this year by the Environmental Modelling Group found the proportion of Covid cases in the population linked to the virus being spread in shops, hospitality and leisure facilities was ‘relatively low’.
They said that the risk of infection was higher in hospitality than retail and leisure.
A global study published this month suggests that mask-wearing is linked to a 53% reduction in Covid cases around the world.
Last night, Education Secretary Nadhim Zhawi recommended that all school personnel and visitors in Years 7 and higher wear masks when entering communal areas.
Teachers in primary education and below should also follow the guidance – but not pupils, the Department for Education said.