All supermarkets should ban shoppers who aren’t wearing face masks, says government minister

Ross McGuinness
·4-min read
Man wearing disposable medical mask shopping in supermarket during coronavirus pneumonia outbreak. Protection and prevent measures while epidemic time.
Some supermarkets have announced they will ask shoppers to wear face masks in their stores. (Getty)

All supermarkets should ban entry to shoppers who aren’t wearing face masks, a government minister has said.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said supermarkets should also return to limiting numbers inside their stores in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Read more: Friends who met for walk have £200 COVID lockdown fines rescinded

On Tuesday, Tesco and Asda followed Morrisons and Sainsbury’s by announcing that customers must wear a face mask to enter its stores, unless they have a medical exemption.

Morrisons announced on Monday that customers who refuse to wear a mask will be told to leave their stores.

Hours later, Sainsbury’s said it will post trained security guards at the entrances to its shops to “challenge” customers who aren’t wearing a mask or are shopping in a group.

Watch: Supermarkets clamp down on mask rules

On Tuesday, Malthouse said all supermarkets should follow in Morrisons’ footsteps to enforce the wearing of masks in stores.

When asked why supermarkets hadn’t previously introduced a ban, he told Times Radio: “I think that, understandably, following the November lockdown there was an element of release and therefore the person at the door, the sanitation station, the traffic light system, the queues outside obviously receded a bit.

“What we hope now, and I know all of them will, that they’ll see their responsibility and start to put those things back in place.”

When asked whether police should intervene, he said some officers have issued fines in retail settings, adding: “What we hope is the vast majority of people, or everybody, will be encouraged to do so by the shop owner.”

He insisted police will back up supermarkets in enforcing the rules.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse in Westminster, London after he became the latest person to enter the race to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse has called on all supermarkets to ban shoppers who aren't wearing face masks. (PA)

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In a statement, a Tesco spokesperson said: “To protect our customers and colleagues, 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 also asking our customers to shop alone, unless they’re a carer or with children. To support our colleagues, we will have additional security in stores to help manage this.”

An Asda spokesman said: “If a customer has forgotten their face covering, we will continue to offer them one free of charge.

“But should a customer refuse to wear a covering without a valid medical reason and be in any way challenging to our colleagues about doing so, our security colleagues will refuse their entry.”

Morrisons chief executive David Potts 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.”

Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts said: “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.”

The government is reportedly considering the introduction of tougher lockdown measures, such as compulsory wearing of masks outdoors and removing the exemption that allows individuals to exercise with one other person from outside their household.

On Tuesday, Britain’s most senior police officer, Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, said those who break the coronavirus lockdown rules are “increasingly likely” to face fines.

Writing in The Times, she said: “It is preposterous to me that anyone could be unaware of our duty to do all we can to stop the spread of the virus.

“We have been clear that those who breach COVID-19 legislation are increasingly likely to face fines.”

Boris Johnson has urged the public to follow social distancing rules when in supermarkets.

“We need to enforce the rules in supermarkets,” the prime minister said. “When people are getting takeaway drinks, in cafes, then they need to avoid spreading the disease there, avoid mingling too much.”

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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, while retailers called on help from police to enforce face mask rules.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “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.”

A sign requesting people stay two metres apart is displayed in the window of a branch of the Sainsbury's supermarket in Kingston upon Thames, south west London, Monday, June 22, 2020. The two-metre social distancing rule will be under review as the UK relax coronavirus lockdown measures implemented to stem the spread of the virus. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Sainsbury's has said it will challenge shoppers who aren't wearing face masks. (AP Photo)

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “While enforcement of face coverings is the responsibility of the police, retailers continue to do what they can to encourage their use throughout stores.

“Sadly, this 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.”

Watch: What you can and can't do during lockdown