Supermarkets and shops refuse to enforce new face-coverings rule

24 July 2020, 06:21

The rules come into effect on Friday with customers required to wear a mask unless they are exempt
The rules come into effect on Friday with customers required to wear a mask unless they are exempt. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Leading supermarkets and coffee chains have said they will not enforce new laws which mean customers will have to wear face-coverings in stores while the police have said it is "impossible" to enforce.

The new law which came into effect on Friday will not be enforced by Sainsburys, Asda, Co-Op and Costa Coffee among others.

New laws called The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) Regulations 2020 make it an offence to enter certain buildings like shops without a face covering - which covers your face and nose - unless they have a reasonable excuse.

But, major high street retails have said they will not be enforcing the rules, nor would they ask people without masks to leave their stores.

The news comes after the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation told LBC that officers won't be "doling out fines" if people refuse to wear masks in shops.

Ken Marsh said the Government's announcement that people will face £100 fines if they don't wear masks in shops will be "impossible" to enforce.

"You're not going to have a police officer on every door," he told LBC, adding the responsibility should be on shopkeepers.

Read more: Face-coverings: What are the new rules about masks in shops? Everything you need to know

And Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she hoped shoppers who refuse to wear masks would be "shamed" into compliance.

She told LBC: "My hope is that the vast majority of people will comply and people will be shamed into leaving the store.

"If somebody is concerned about what's going on in their store, then yes, of course they should call the police and we will try to assist."

Read more: Ministers accused of 'making it up as they go along' amid facemask confusion

After weeks of mixed messages from the Government, ministers issued a clarification of the new law on Thursday which came into effect just one day later.

Face coverings must be worn in: shops and shopping centres; banks; building societies; credit unions; short-term loan providers; savings clubs and currency exchange offices; anywhere that transmits money by cash or cheque; post offices, unless you are exempt.

Ahead of the new rules coming into force LBC went to a branch of the Co-Op in Great Barr in Birmingham to ask manager Gill and some of their regular customers how they feel about it.

Sainsbury's said while it is asking everyone 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 enter our stores without a mask since they may have a legitimate reason as to why they are unable to wear one."

Paul Gerrard, of Co-op Food, said shop workers should not be expected to enforce rules on face coverings, saying: "It's not their job, it's the police's job".

Tesco said it would be selling face coverings at the entrance and Waitrose said staff would be at the entrance to stores reminding customers of the requirement.

Customers will be "required" to wear a face-covering in Greggs.

McDonald's said takeaway customers will need to wear face coverings but those who eat in the restaurant will not unless they are moving around the premises, for example to use toilets or when at self-order screens.

The British Retail Consortium called on customers to be "respectful" of the new rules and criticised the length of time taken for the guidance to be published.

The Association of Convenience Stores has already said: “We have advised members not to challenge customers unwilling to wear a covering.”

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 Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters on Thursday: "With shops, we would expect them to give advice to customers and remind them that they should be wearing a face covering and I'm sure the overwhelming majority of the public will do so."

The laws could be in place until at least January, and could even last a year, unless the Government decides to scrap them in the meantime.

Face coverings are already mandatory in shops in Scotland and will be compulsory in shops in Northern Ireland from August 1.