Morrisons and Sainsbury’s today vowed to ban shoppers who refuse to wear face masks from entering their stores as supermarkets face calls to bring in security to enforce strict lockdown rules.
During the first shutdown, supermarkets installed bouncers at store entrances to challenge rule-breakers and created in-store one-way systems to help people socially distance.
But the bouncers began to vanish as the threat posed by Covid-19 waned during the summer, leading to an increasingly ‘lax’ attitude from shoppers who no longer cover their faces.
Shopworkers have revealed that they are receiving abuse from customers for encouraging them to wear masks, fuelling calls for bouncers to visibly enforce lockdown measures.
Morrisons today announced it would deny shoppers who refuse to wear masks entry to its nearly 500 stores, with Sainsbury’s following suit by revealing security guards would ‘challenge’ non-mask wearers.
Shopworkers’ union Usdaw said it had been ‘inundated’ with complaints from its members of abuse during the pandemic, and demanded supermarkets and food retailers revert to ‘stringent’ restrictions.
High street chains including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose insisted that Covid safety remains their ‘highest priority’ and said that customers were given regular reminders to follow the rules.
But today shocking examples of the regulations being broken were seemingly evident in the big-brand shops as Boris Johnson warned of ‘complacency’ and urged people to comply with the restrictions.
It comes amid threats to impose outdoor mask mandates, with London’s Borough Market becoming the first place in the UK to legally enforce the wearing of masks while the Welsh health minister hinted that restrictions could get even tougher as he advised people to wear masks inbetween shops in public.
Pictured: A young man not wearing a face mask in an Asda supermarket in south-east London during the third lockdown
People not wearing masks properly, with them nestling under their chins, inside an Asda in South East London England
There were people in Tesco stores who were not wearing masks today, despite rules telling shoppers to unless exempt
It was also difficult for social distancing to be obeyed in some supermarkets due to the number of shoppers inside the stores
Members of the public bemoaned the mask situation inside supermarkets in a series of posts online on Twitter
Face coverings: Who is exempt?
Children under the age of 11 and people who cannot wear a face covering due to a mental or physical illness are exempt from wearing masks.
People who need to speak to or assist someone who is lip reading, or needs clear sound and/or facial expressions to communicate, are also exempt.
Carrying an exemption card or badge is a ‘personal choice’ and ‘not required by law’, according to the government.
It states that if you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a mask, then you ‘do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this’ and ‘do not need to show an exemption card’.
The full list of exemptions can be found here.
The PM said today: ‘We need to enforce the rules in supermarkets. When people are getting takeaway drinks, in cafes, then they need to avoid spreading the disease there, avoid mingling too much.’
In a statement released today, Morrisons said it had ‘introduced and consistently maintained thorough and robust safety measures in all our stores’ since last year.
But it added: ‘From today we are further strengthening our policy on masks’ – revealing that security guards at the UK’s fourth-biggest supermarket chain will be enforcing the new rules.
Enforcement of face masks is the responsibility of the police, not retailers. Wearing face masks in supermarkets and shops is compulsory across the UK.
In England, the police can issue a £200 fine to someone breaking the face covering rules. In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, a £60 fine can be imposed. Repeat offenders face bigger fines.
Morrisons’ chief executive David Potts announced: ‘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 chief executive Simon Roberts said: ‘On behalf of all my colleagues, I am asking our customers to help us keep everyone safe.
‘The vast majority of customers are shopping safely, but I have also seen some customers trying to shop without a mask and shopping in larger family groups.
‘Please help us to keep all our colleagues and customers safe by always wearing a mask and by shopping alone. Everyone’s care and consideration matters now more than ever.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised Morrisons for imposing a blanket mask rule, telling a Downing Street press conference: ‘It isn’t just about the Government and the rules we set, or the police and the work that they do – it’s about how everybody behaves.
‘I applaud the action Morrisons has taken today, the supermarket, they have said that they will not let people in without a mask unless they clearly have a medical reason. That’s the right approach and I want to see all parts of society playing their part in this.’
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi voiced his concerns that members of the public were not complying with measures put in place by supermarkets, amid suggestions the restrictions may need to be toughened.
‘I am worried about supermarkets and people actually wearing masks and following the one-way system and making sure when it’s at capacity they wait outside the supermarket,’ he said.
It comes amid reports that shopworkers are receiving abuse from customers who are not wearing masks, with Lincoln-based supermarket staffer Skye Henson, 23, saying people took the first lockdown ‘a lot more seriously’ and claiming ‘we’re lucky if people are wearing masks’ now.
She told BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat: ‘A good 30 per cenr of the people that come into our shop don’t wear masks and just outright don’t think it’s an issue. They don’t consider us to be in any kind of danger, so for me I do think a lot of it is the public putting us at risk.’
Usdaw 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.
Food shopping is one of the reasons Britons are allowed to leave their homes during the third national lockdown of the crisis
There is a provision in coronavirus rules for people not to wear a mask if they have a medical condition that exempts them
Shop workers remind customers to wear masks in the supermarket although some may be exempt for medical reasons
Supermarket coronavirus rules in place
Facemasks are mandatory in store, unless the shopper is medically exempt from wearing them.
There are also plastic safety screens, hand sanitiser and signs urging customers to socially distance.
The store also has specially-timed slots for elderly or vulnerable people to buy their goods.
Marks & Spencer
M&S has hand sanitising as well as one-way systems in place and a facemask rule.
Larger shops have restricted the purchase of non-essential goods.
There is also a booking process to let people reserve a slot instore to go shopping.
Morrison’s have told staff to refuse entry to shoppers who have no medical reason for not wearing a facemask.
They also have a specialist next-day delivery service for those who cannot get to a shop in person.
The shop also has an NHS priority time the key workers can go in to buy food.
Asda, like others, has a rule for facemasks unless there is a medical exemption announced by the customer.
They also have an app that lets shoppers wait in a digital queue in their cars for a slot to go instore.
Asda also say they have put a protective film on basket and trolley grips that kills bacteria.
Tesco has similar facemask and cleaning protocols in place in all of its stores.
It also has priority hours for key workers as well as limits on some items for delivery.
Larger stores still have staff at the front of them to warn unmasked shoppers going in they need to cover up.
Waitrose says facemasks must be worn in its stores unless a person is exempted from not wearing one.
Marshals are at the entrances to its stores to check people are wearing mask and are shopping alone.
Floor-markers help customers to follow social distancing while people are asked to keep two metres in queues.
‘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.
‘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.
‘I am worried about supermarkets and people actually wearing masks and following the one-way system and making sure when it’s at capacity they wait outside the supermarket.’
Retail industry body the British Retail Consortium said that workers have faced an increase in incidents of violence and abuse when trying to encourage shoppers to put them on.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Supermarkets continue to follow all safety guidance and customers should be reassured that supermarkets are Covid-secure and safe to visit during lockdown and beyond.
‘Customers should play their part too by following in-store signage and being considerate to staff and fellow shoppers.’
One woman told MailOnline how Marks and Spencer told her they could not challenge people who do not adhere to the mask mandate.
Fiona Call said she was shopping at a Food Hall at Rushden Lakes in Northamptonshire when she saw a woman ‘blatantly marching around the store with her mask under her chin’.
‘I mentioned this to a manager in the store. His reply was that they aren’t allowed to challenge people who aren’t adhering to the rules,’ she said.
‘She was obviously putting many people at risk by her behaviour and no one was able to do anything about it.’
Marks and Spencer insisted it was enforcing lockdown rules, with a ‘friendly host at the entrance’ who counts customers and manages queues.
Tesco said it was still enforcing social distancing practices in store but was not looking yet at reintroducing measures such as one-way aisles.
‘The safety of our customers and colleagues is our top priority and we already have extensive social distancing measures in our stores to ensure everyone can shop safely with us,’ the store said on Twitter.
‘We are asking all our customers to wear a face covering when visiting our stores and have prominent signs in place to inform customers of the rules.
‘However, there may be some customers who are unable to wear a face covering for medical or safety reasons and we have asked our colleagues to respect that and to not challenge them directly.’
Waitrose said face masks must be worn in its stores unless a person is exempted from not wearing one.
It said marshals flank the entrances to its stores to check people are complying with the mask mandate and checking that people are shopping alone.
The supermarket chain has also laid out floor markers which instruct customers to following social distancing rules, while signs and tannoys tell people to keep two metres apart while queueing on the premises.
Data from Public Health England last week found 11 outbreaks of the disease had come from food outlets.
But England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said supermarket staff would not be initially prioritised for vaccinations unless they also fell into the highest vulnerability categories.
Responding to a question from a food retail worker from Somerset on BBC Radio 5 Live, he said: ‘All of us in society have relied on the extraordinary work of people who have kept retail for essential goods – food and so on – going. I think all of us should thank you and your colleagues very much for that.
‘In terms of vaccination prioritisation… the initial wave is all around the people who have the highest risk of dying, it’s a clinical question, largely on age.
Shoppers in Asda put their masks on after they had gone inside, left, or did not wear one at all in some cases, right
Everyone in England is being urged to stay at home and ‘act like you’ve got it’ as part of a major advertising campaign. including posters (pictured) encouraging the public to control the spread of the virus and protect the NHS and save lives
London’s Borough Market becomes first outdoor space in UK to legally enforce face masks with anyone caught breaching rules facing £50 fine
London‘s Borough Market has become the first outdoor space in the UK to legally enforce the wearing of face masks.
From Monday, customers and vendors at the food and drink market will face a £50 fine if they do not wear a face covering in and around the stalls.
Pictures taken in the market in December showed vast swathes of shoppers crammed in as they browsed through stalls.
The drastic move comes as the Government considers making wearing masks outdoors compulsory for all Britons under harsh new lockdown rules.
Boris Johnson met cabinet colleagues last night to discuss an even-tougher lockdown – with measures including a ban on extended bubbles and limits on exercise.
A Whitehall source told MailOnline ministers have discussed going as far as saying people can only leave the house once a week – although No10 today denied this was on the cards saying the focus was on ‘bolstering enforcement and policing’.
‘Obviously if someone falls into that, if they’re an older person working in retail or they have a health condition, they will be included in that.’
Prof Whitty added that as soon as the most vulnerable were vaccinated then ministers would decide who to prioritise next.
It comes as Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said he believed it would be ‘easier’ not to remove a face covering when moving in between essential shops to protect against coronavirus.
Mr Gething today told the Welsh government’s press briefing that it was now ‘more important than ever’ to follow hygiene advice as he pledged to speed up Wales’ rollout of vaccinations.
He said it included keeping a distance from others, washing hands often, maintaining good ventilation and air circulation indoors, adding: ‘And if we do have to go out, wearing a face mask when we’re in public places.’
Asked if he was recommending people wear face masks in all outdoor public spaces, Mr Gething said: ‘No, because we should be socially distanced from other people.
‘But this is about the recognition that when you’re going out and about in the public, when you’re going into indoor spaces if you’re doing a food shop, if you’re going into places that you can go, then it’s a reminder for people to wear a face mask while you’re doing that.
‘I see a number of people who have them as I go into different parts of the town that I live in, because you’re going into one shop and into another.
‘If you’re going to more than one to do your essential business, then it’s easier for somebody to keep their face coverings on.’
He added: ‘There isn’t a change in the general advice that we’re providing. But this is part of what we can all do to protect ourselves to maintain our defence to wear a face covering where possible I think reinforcing that message is a good thing.’
A Welsh Government spokesperson said Mr Gething’s comments were not a change in Welsh Government guidance, which states: ‘Wearing face coverings outdoors, where transmission of the virus is low, is not recommended, unless in a situation where social distancing of two metres is impossible.’
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