Supermarket crackdown on wearing masks to shop

Date published: 12 January 2021

Supermarkets are clamping down on customers who refuse to wear face coverings as the coronavirus infection rate continues to increase.

From Monday (11 January), Morrisons shoppers who refuse to wear face masks offered by staff will not be allowed in store, unless they are medically exempt.

Morrisons Chief Executive, David Potts said: “Those who are offered a face covering and decline to wear one won’t be allowed to shop at Morrisons unless they are medically exempt. 

“Our store colleagues are working hard to feed you and your family; please be kind.”

Sainsbury’s has also said it will challenge those not wearing a mask as well as those shopping in groups. It will also put security guards at the front of store to challenge shoppers who do not comply with the enforcements.

CEO of Sainsbury’s, Simon Roberts said: “I have spent a lot of time in our stores over the past few days and I need to ask for your help with two key issues to keep you and all my colleagues safe.

“When shopping in our stores, you must wear a mask or visor unless you have a medical exemption.  And you should also shop on your own. Thank you for your support. 

“Security guards will support our colleagues at the front of store and will challenge customers who are not wearing masks or who are shopping in groups. I know you’ll understand and support what we are trying to do. 

“We have also significantly reduced the number of customers allowed in our stores at any one time to ensure social distancing is maintained at all times. 

“Together, these steps will go a long way to keep everyone safe, whether you are shopping or working with us. 

“Please wear a mask or visor and please shop alone in our stores. Thank you for helping us to keep everyone safe.”

Wearing face masks in supermarkets and shops is compulsory across the UK but enforcement is the responsibility of the police, not retailers. In England, the police can issue a £200 fine to someone breaking the face covering rules.

Under the current lockdown restrictions, people must only leave their home for essential reasons, such as buying food or medicine.

Supermarkets first introduced safety measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus during the first lockdown in March 2020.

This included social distancing, limits on the number of customers in shops, plastic screens, managed checkout queues, free face coverings, signage and instructions for customers, and rigorous and regular cleaning.

The shop workers' union Usdaw also called for supermarkets and food retailers to apply more stringent measures again after it has been 'inundated' with complaints about customers 'blatantly flouting rules'.

The union's general secretary, Paddy Lillis, said: “Retail staff are working with the public every day and not only suffer increased abuse, but are deeply worried about catching Covid-19.

“The strict safety measures that we agreed with employers in the first lockdown must now be immediately reinstated in every workplace to ensure that staff are working in the safest conditions possible. Where safety measures are agreed, retailers need to make sure that they are being followed consistently, in every store. 

“We are also very concerned by reports that too many customers are not following necessary safety measures like social distancing, wearing a face covering and only shopping for essential items. Usdaw is urging the shopping public to strictly follow the rules to help make shops safer and limit the spread of Covid-19.

“It is going to take some time to roll out the vaccine and we cannot afford to be complacent in the meantime, particularly with a new strain sweeping the nation. The Government has already designated workers in essential retail as key workers therefore we are also calling on the Government to ensure that retail workers and delivery drivers are given priority for vaccination and testing, because they provide the essential service of keeping the nation fed.

“Many retail workers are at a greater risk of catching the virus and bringing it home to their families. Supermarket workers and delivery drivers have worked throughout the pandemic to keep the country supplied with essentials. These key workers must be valued, respected and protected.”

The union suggested implementing additional safety measures, including a ‘one in, one out’ policy and ‘proper queuing systems, managed by trained security staff, where necessary’.

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