Covid face masks: What supermarkets in Sheffield are saying - and why Co-op and Iceland won't enforce masks
The Government has reintroduced rules on wearing masks in shops amid rising fears around the Omicron Covid variant – but are stores enforcing them?
With cases of the new variant rising and fears growing around how easily it can spread, wearing a face covering in shops and on public transport has once again been made mandatory by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
But bosses at some supermarkets have said they will not be enforcing the rules as they are concerned about how staff may be treated.
Iceland and Co-op are two of the retailers which have said they will not be coming down hard on those who do not wear masks – despite police having the power to fine people £200 – over fears staff will face both physical and verbal abuse.
Cases of the Omicron variant have been found in a number of places within the UK, including Essex, Nottingham and Liverpool, leading to tougher measures being put into place.
Rules around travel to and from the UK have also changed in a bid to combat the spread.
Each retailer has taken a different approach to enforcing the rules, however – here is what all the major supermarkets have said.
What are the rules on wearing masks in shops and what are the penalties?
The Government has now made it mandatory to wear a face mask in all shops and on all public transport – but not in pubs, restaurants and concert venues.
The tougher rules are said to be a ‘temporary’ measure, according to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, while vaccine companies work on developments to combat the new variant.
The booster programme is also being extended and officials are urging people to ensure they are fully vaccinated as it is the ‘best line of defence’ against the spread of Covid.
Police have the power to fine people £200 if they do not wear a mask, which then doubles for each further offence – with a maximum of £6,400.
Are supermarkets in Sheffield enforcing Covid face mask rules?
The rules apply to all supermarkets and public transport across the UK, and businesses are doing their best to communicate and advertise the latest ones.
However, some are choosing not to challenge those who refuse to abide by the rules to lighten the burden on staff.
This is what each supermarket is currently saying.
Iceland and Co-op
Both Iceland and Co-op have come out to say they will not be cracking down on people who do not wear a mask in their stores.
Managing director of Iceland, Richard Walker, told the Daily Mail that he ‘fully supports' the decision to reintroduce masks but ‘won't be asking’ employees to ‘police' it.
Public affairs director for Co-op, Paul Gerrard, also appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday morning to speak about the business’ position on face masks.
He told the presenters they will do everything they can to ‘help’ customers follow the rules, but ‘won't refuse to serve people’ or ‘refuse entry’ to those who are not wearing a mask.
Ultimately, the Government has said the police are responsible for enforcing the rules, although it is calling on the British public to follow the rules.
Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose
Other supermarkets in Sheffield have not quite been so explicit about whether or not they will be enforcing the policies, but have all made it clear what the rules are.
Aldi has urged people to continue wearing masks in store as it is now mandatory and Lidl said security staff may remind people of the need to wear a mask when shopping – although it understands some people may be medically exempt.
Tesco has posted on its website to say it is ‘encouraging people’ to wear a mask and Sainsbury’s has said it will ‘ask’ people to wear one, with security guards on its doors and signs up in-store.
Waitrose has also said it will be reminding people that it is mandatory to wear a face covering and it is understood Morrisons will be offering free masks to those who may have forgotten theirs – as well as ‘following all update Government guidelines’.