Shop staff fears after return of mask rule as Iceland boss warns enforcement of new Covid mandate cannot be left to retail workers
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.
However the new rules, announced by Boris Johnson this weekend, do not apply to indoor hospitality settings, such as pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas.
Richard Walker (pictured with Prince Charles in July), managing director of Iceland, said his staff on the shop floor could not be asked to intervene when they spot a rule-breaker
It is not known what led ministers to take the decision but it is believed they did not want to impact the hospitality industry, which has suffered huge economic losses during the pandemic, while scientists said masks in pubs would simply not be practical.
Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, said his staff on the shop floor could not be asked to intervene when they spot 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’.
But they still said the hospitality sector, compared to leisure and retail, appeared to be linked to a greater risk of virus transmission.
Meanwhile a global study, published earlier this month, suggests mask-wearing was linked to a 53 per cent cut in the number of Covid cases worldwide.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi last night recommended that school staff, visitors and pupils in Year 7 and above should wear masks in communal areas.
Teachers in primary education and below should also follow the guidance – but not pupils, the Department for Education said.