Shoppers told 'don't have a go' at those not wearing face masks in case of hidden conditions

24 July 2020, 17:49

Police are encouraging people to be nice to those not wearing masks while shopping
Police are encouraging people to be nice to those not wearing masks while shopping. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A police chief has urged the public not to "have a go" at people who are not wearing face coverings in shops in case they have a hidden condition.

From Friday people are required to wear a face-covering in shopping centres, banks, takeaway outlets, sandwich shops and supermarkets.

The new regulations come with stiff penalties for those who flout the rules and could see people issued with fines of up to £100.

Rank-and-file police officers are urging shops to refuse entry to people not wearing masks after some high street chains said they will not penalise customers who fail to do so.

However, John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said forces "do not have the resources" to widely enforce the law.

Speaking on Twitter, he encouraged the public to be nice to each other and not "have a go" at anyone who is not wearing a mask as their reason for doing so may not be immediately obvious.

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He said: "If you're out shopping today and you see somebody not wearing a face covering it may be because they have a hidden disability.

"Don't jump to conclusions, don't have a go at them. This is new for us all, it's about keeping each other safe.

"Please be nice!"

The new guidance was issued by the government on Thursday after weeks of confusion and mixed messages from ministers.

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It states that staff in premises where face coverings are required are encouraged to "take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law" and can refuse entry to people who do not have a valid exemption under the rules.

Mr Apter said: "It is our members who are expected to police what is a new way of living and 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.

"The vast majority of the public have complied with the lockdown rules so far and I would hope they will continue to do the right thing and wear face coverings in stores to help protect fellow citizens to minimise the spread of the virus."

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