24 Jul Coronavirus: Major supermarkets refuse to enforce face mask rules despite police pleas | UK News
Major supermarkets have said they will not be enforcing the wearing of face coverings as the new rules came into force in England.
From Friday, face masks are compulsory in England in shops and when buying food or drink to take away, but Sainsbury’s, Asda and Costa Coffee are among those who say they will not penalise customers who fail to wear them.
Those who flout the new rule – which applies to shops, shopping centres, banks, takeaways, post offices, sandwich shops and supermarkets – are supposed to face a fine of up to £100, in line with the penalty for failing to wear a face mask on public transport.
But there are concerns about how the law will be enforced, with both retailers and police forces having indicated that they lack the resources to do so.
Bedfordshire Police has urged locals “to not call us to report people not wearing face coverings in shops, but instead to raise concerns to store staff or security personnel”.
That plea came after the Police Federation of England and Wales said forces “do not have the resources” to widely enforce the law, and that shops should be refusing entry to people not wearing face coverings.
National chairman John Apter said: “I would urge retail outlets to play their part in making the rules crystal clear – if you are not wearing a face covering then you are not coming in.
“Officers will be there to help stores if needed – but only as a last resort, as we simply do not have the resources.”
Mr Apter said he hoped that the “vast majority” of people who have adhered to the lockdown rules would “do the right thing and wear face coverings in stores to protect fellow citizens and minimise the spread” of COVID-19.
Coronavirus transmission in the UK is said to be at a similar level to a week ago, according to government data published on Friday, with the growth rate between minus 4% and minus 1% compared to minus 5% and minus 1%.
The R number, which refers to COVID-19’s reproduction rate, remains between 0.7 and 0.9 – and the government will hope widespread adoption of face masks will help keep it below 1.
But Sainsbury’s has said that while it is asking customers to continue “playing their part” in helping to keep everyone safe in store by following the rules, “our colleagues will not be responsible for enforcing them”.
Asda said it will “strongly encourage customers to wear a face covering”, but added: “It is the responsibility of the relevant authorities to police and enforce the new rules.”
Costa Coffee said it would “not be challenging customers” who are not wearing a mask “since they may have a legitimate reason as to why they are unable to wear one”.
Tesco will be selling face coverings at the entrance and Waitrose said staff will be at store entrances reminding customers of the requirement.
Shoppers were out on Friday with or without face coverings.
Donna Howitt, communications director at shopping district Liverpool One, said: “There are plenty of people with face masks on.”
She said signs had been put up to remind people they are now mandatory in stores and shoppers would be reminded on entry to wear a face covering.
She said visitor numbers to the shopping complex had steadily increased since lockdown measures were eased and some people had started to wear face coverings before today.
Judith Molloy, 72, from St Helens, said she had started using a face covering to go to the shops some time ago.
“I’m vulnerable and so is my husband. I think this should have started from day one,” she said.
“I was on the bus this morning and people were getting on with no masks.
“If you go into a shop without a mask I don’t think anyone is going to say anything. I think people are more relaxed now.”
Susan Green, 57, from Liverpool, was wearing a clear visor. She said: “I think it is a little bit late to have introduced this and lots of people I’ve seen this morning are not even wearing one.
“It won’t put me off coming to the shops because I’ll be out anyway, but it does seem a bit unnecessary.”
The government has been accused of being unclear in its own advice over face coverings, leading to confusion as to where people should be wearing them.
The new law does not apply to staff working in shops and people are not required to wear masks inside pubs, bars or restaurants.
The fine for failing to wear a face covering falls to £50 if paid within 14 days.
In Scotland, it is required by law to wear face coverings in both shops and on public transport.
People are not currently required to wear them in Wales or Northern Ireland.