Retailers hope mandatory face masks boost shopper confidence

16 July 2020, 09:00 AM
  • Face coverings will be required in shops and supermarkets across England from 24th July
Retailers hope mandatory face masks boost shopper confidence

From 24th July, it will be mandatory to wear a face covering while in shops and supermarkets in England, the government has said. The announcement came as a report requested by the government’s chief scientific adviser suggested that without urgent action, a second wave of Covid-19 this winter could overwhelm the NHS.

Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, welcomed the news and said he hoped it would bring confidence back to shoppers. “Facemasks and coverings can provide a certain level of protection to people you come into close contact with, which could help to stop the spread of the disease and to help get back to business as soon as possible.”

However, he added that to continue encouraging footfall and ensuring no customers are turned away, councils and the government should help small firms either by delivering masks or by offering funding for their purchase.

“While some shoppers may still be nervous, small firms will be hoping that these new measures will inject new confidence into customers and get them back into town centres and high streets across the nation,” he said.

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union, said that shop workers should not be expected to enforce the wearing of face coverings on their own. “They are already dealing with more abuse than normal, and this could be another flashpoint.”

Under the government rules, shoppers can be fined up to £100 by the police if they don’t comply. However, Ken Marsh, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation said it would be “nigh-on impossible” for officers to enforce the new rule and that shop keepers had to “step up to the plate and take some responsibility”. George Eustice, the environment secretary, said retailers “will have a role to play” in ensuring shoppers wear face coverings.

According to a recent poll by YouGov, a majority of consumers are supportive of the government’s measures. 60% of respondents said they were in favour of the government making it compulsory for people to wear face coverings, while 34% believed people should be allowed to decide whether or not to wear them.

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