New face covering mandatory rules come into force on Friday

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 23rd July, 2020) London, Uk – –

Banks, post offices and airports will also be subject to new rules, government confirms

Face coverings will be compulsory in takeaways, banks and post offices as well as shops, supermarkets, indoor shopping centres and stations in England from Friday, the government has announced.

Coverings, such as cloth masks or bandanas, must be worn when buying food and drink to take away, but if sitting down and consuming their purchase in the same premises, a customer can remove their face covering in order to eat and drink there.

While shoppers must wear face coverings, the rules say it will not be compulsory for shop or supermarket staff to wear them. The government only says “we strongly recommend that employers consider their use where appropriate”.

New government guidelines, details of which were published on Thursday afternoon, confirmed that coverings must be worn in shops, banks, building societies and post offices and “travel hubs” such as train stations and airports.

It will not be compulsory for customers to wear masks or similar coverings in hairdressers, gyms, dine-in restaurants and pubs or cinemas, concert halls or theatres.

Banks, post offices and other businesses will be able to ask people to remove face coverings for identification purposes.Advertisement

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said:“As we move into the next stage of easing restrictions for the public, it is vital we continue to shop safely so that we can make the most of our fantastic retail industry this summer.

“Everyone must play their part in fighting this virus by following this new guidance. I also want to thank the British public for all the sacrifices they are making to help keep this country safe.”

However, there was some criticism over the measures, with the hospitality industry querying the timing of the news. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UK Hospitality trade body, said: “The announcement lacked clarity around many issues affecting outlets offering both takeaway and on-premises dining. Furthermore, with the announcement at around 2.30pm the day before the measures come into effect, it left those venues a very short time to properly brief staff, prepare signage and take steps to encourage compliance.”

Police will have powers to enforce the rules and, from Friday, those who do not do so could face fines of up to £100, in line with the rules for wearing face coverings public transport. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

Shops can refuse entry to anyone without an exemption who refuses to wear a face covering and can call the police if people refuse to comply.

Major retailers said they would not ask staff to enforce the rules and some said they would also not require that staff wear masks if they were already working behind a perspex screen or similar protective set-up.

Tom Ironside, the director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, the trade body that represents most of the high street, said: “Retailers are doing all they can to support necessary safety regulations and will play their role in communicating and encouraging the government’s new policy on face coverings.

“While enforcement of this policy will be handled by the police, the ultimate responsibility remains with customers who must ensure that they wear a face covering when going into stores.”

Businesses are concerned about potential threats to staff if they try to enforce the rules too strictly. Many retailers have already reported aggressive behaviour from some customers when trying to maintain social distancing measures.

Richard Walker, the boss of the frozen food chain Iceland, tweeted: “If mandatory face masks in shops will make our customers & colleagues safer then they are welcome – but we won’t put our staff at risk by asking them to police this. The UK cannot afford a second wave, so we all need to play our part and show care and consideration for each other.”

The Co-op is introducing body cameras for workers after in-store crime soared by 140% in the past year. It said the numbers of violent incidents hit record levels with 1,350 attacks experienced by workers in its shops in the first six months of 2020.

The company said it had not asked staff to challenge shoppers who were not wearing face covering. “We are aware that there are reasons why some customers are exempt, and it is the responsibility of all non-exempt customers to ensure they are in adherence with the new legal requirements,” the Co-op said.

Other retailers said they would be increasing their use of signage to remind shoppers of the new rules, while some, including Sainsbury’s, said they would be making Tannoy announcements about the measures.

For shoppers arriving without masks, Tesco said it would offer them face coverings at the door.

The prime minister’s office said enforcement would be treated as a “last resort”.

“What I’m sure we’ll find, as we have with other aspects of the coronavirus response, is that the British public will voluntarily choose to follow the guidelines because they want to play their part in helping to slow the spread of the virus,” Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said.

By Sarah Butler and Simon Murphy