Sainsbury's and Morrisons to enforce mask wearing in their supermarkets
12 January 2021, 6:42
Sainsbury's and Morrisons have said they will enforce the wearing of masks and shopping alone in their stores following government concern that supermarkets are becoming places where the Covid-19 could spread more easily.
Sainsbury's confirmed it will place trained security guards at shop entrances to “challenge” customers not wearing a mask or shopping in groups.
Chief executive Simon Roberts said in a statement: “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.
“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.”
A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's added guidance remained "shop alone if you can" and customers with children or carers would not be refused entry.
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It follows a strengthened policy on masks from Morrisons earlier this week.
David Potts, chief executive of Morrisons, said: "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."
It comes after vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the government was concerned that supermarkets were becoming places where the virus could be spread more easily.
He said: "We are concerned that, for example, in supermarkets we need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way rule in supermarkets.
"And, of course, when they are at capacity - to operate safely, people wait outside supermarkets."We don't want to go any tougher, because this is a pretty tough lockdown."
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.
On Monday, Boris Johnson urged the public to respect coronavirus regulations when out grocery shopping and buying takeaway coffee, amid "deep" concerns from food retail workers over their safety.
Shopworkers' union Usdaw said that it had been "inundated" with complaints from its members - who are classed as key workers - and called for supermarkets to revert to more stringent in-store measures.
Retail bosses have also suggested that further police support is needed to help enforce measures, which they say are leading to an increase in abuse towards staff.
The prime minister said people needed to "do the right thing" by adhering to social distancing when out.
"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," he said.
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.
"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.
"Many retail workers are at a greater risk of catching the virus and bringing it home to their families.
"These key workers must be valued, respected and protected."