Supermarket chains to enforce mask wearing in shops

Supermarket chains to enforce mask wearing in shops

Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and other major multiples are enforcing mask wearing in their stores, following concerns about behaviour in stores – including an incident at one store in Derry/Londonderry where police arrested one man.

The companies said entry would be denied to those not wearing masks unless they had a valid medical reason. Sainsbury’s also said it would use security guards to challenge those shopping in groups. Four men were arrested following a brawl outside its store in Chelmsford.

Keep everyone safe

The company said it has written to customers to ask them to play their part in keeping everyone safe, adding that it has “significantly reduced” the number of customers allowed into stores at any one time.

Simon Roberts, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, said: “I’ve spent a lot of time in our stores reviewing the latest situation over the last few days and 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.

Shop alone

A spokesperson for Tesco said: “We won’t let anyone into our stores who is not wearing a face covering, unless they are exempt in line with government guidance.

“We are asking our customers to shop alone, unless they’re a carer or with children.”

There are only a few cases where people can be exempt from wearing face masks in settings such as supermarkets, including children under the age of 11, people who physically cannot put a mask on or wear one, and people for whom putting on, wearing or taking off a mask would cause “severe distress”.

Also exempt are people accompanying those who rely on lip reading, or those in cases where using a mask would risk harm or injury to others.

Violence and abuse

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Sadly, (enforcing mask rules) has led to a sharp rise in incidents of violence and abuse against shop workers, which is why it is essential police support the work being done by retailers.”

Mr Opie insisted that data from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had shown retail was a safe environment, and noted that firms had spent hundreds of millions of pounds on safety measures including perspex screens, additional cleaning and social distancing.

“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,” he said.