Health Secretary Matt Hancock has backed a move by the Morrisons supermarket chain to ban shoppers who do not wear Covid face covering.
When asked about the possibility of even stricter restrictions on coronavirus, he told No. 10’s Jan. 11 briefing that everyone must play their part and applauded Morrisons for doing the right thing.
Mr Hancock said, “The most important thing about the rules is that people have to obey them and that is absolutely critical and you can see from the state of the NHS why this is so important
“Therefore, stronger enforcement is needed and I am pleased that the police are stepping up their enforcement.
“But it’s not just about the government and the rules we make, or the police and the work they do, it’s how everyone behaves.
“I applaud the action Morrisons has taken today, the grocery store. They said they won’t let people in without a mask unless they clearly have a medical reason. That’s the right approach and I want everyone Sections of society play their part in this.
“So, yes, of course we are keeping an eye on these things and have shown that we are ready to tighten the rules if they need to be tightened.
“But what is really important here and now is that everyone obey the rules as they are today, and everyone can do their part.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson today urged the public to respect coronavirus regulations when shopping for groceries and buying takeaway coffee, amid “deep” concerns among grocery retailers about their safety.
Shop workers union, Usdaw, said it had been “inundated” with complaints from its members – who are classified as key workers – and urged supermarkets to return to stricter measures in business.
Retail bosses have also suggested that further police assistance is needed to enforce measures they believe will lead to an increase in employee abuse.
The prime minister said people need to “do the right thing” by maintaining social distance when they are out and about.
“We have to enforce the rules in supermarkets. When people get take-away drinks in cafes, they have to avoid spreading the disease there and not mixing too much,” he said.
Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis said, “Retail workers work with the public every day and not only suffer from increased abuse but are deeply concerned about the catch of Covid-19.
“Once security measures are in place, retailers need to ensure that they are consistently followed in every store.
“We are also very concerned about reports that too many customers are failing to follow necessary safety precautions such as social distancing, wearing face-covering, and shopping only for essential items.
“Many retail workers are at greater risk of contracting the virus and bringing it home to their families.
“These key forces must be valued, respected and protected.”
Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said: “While enforcement of face covers is the responsibility of the police, retailers continue to do everything possible to encourage their use in all stores.
“Unfortunately, this has led to a sharp increase in incidents of violence and abuse against shop workers, so it is imperative that the police support the work of the retailers.”
The UK chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said supermarket employees would not initially be prioritized for vaccinations unless they also fell into the highest susceptibility categories.
The Morrisons supermarket chain said Monday that customers who refuse to wear a mask with no medical exception will be encouraged to leave stores.
Managing Director David Potts said, “Those offered face coverage who refuse to wear one are not allowed to shop in Morrisons unless they are medically exempted.”
“Our business colleagues work hard to feed you and your family. Please be kind.”
Safety remains their “top priority”, according to Tesco and Sainsbury, and customers have been regularly reminded to abide by the rules.
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “We have continued to take a number of measures to ensure the safety of customers and colleagues in our stores.
“We have greeters outside of our supermarkets and busy convenience stores to limit the number of customers who come into stores and to keep reminding customers to wear face-covering and shop on their own when they can.
“We also have posters and regular Tannoy announcements.”
Tesco said it is still enforcing in-store social distancing practices but is not yet considering reintroducing measures like one-way aisles.
“The safety of our customers and colleagues is a top priority for us and we already have extensive social distancing measures in our stores to ensure that everyone can shop safely with us,” the store said on Twitter.
“We ask all of our customers to wear face covering when visiting our stores and to put up prominent signs to inform customers of the rules.
“However, there may be customers who cannot wear face covering for medical or safety reasons, and we asked our colleagues to respect that and not challenge them directly.”
Local authorities have also promised to work with the government to enforce the rules in supermarkets.
A spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA) said, “We understand that there is an ongoing concern among councils and law enforcement officers regarding the level of social distancing, the use of face masks and supermarket infection control compliance, and are pleased that the government is doing so. ” This is currently being investigated.
“We will continue to work with councils and the government to ensure that any changes made to improve security in our communities are implemented as effectively.”