This is what shops in Sheffield can do if you refuse to wear a mask

Face masks will become mandatory for anyone heading into a shop in England from Friday.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 12:47 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 12:52 pm

Under the new rules, people will need to have their nose and mouth covered or face a fine of up to £100.

However, many people have been left confused by the new rules with wondering whether shop workers can refuse entry for not doing so.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said shopkeepers should be expected to manage entry into their stores and compliance with the law while inside.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Customers wear face masks while shopping (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The Police Federation, representing rank-and-file officers, said it was "unrealistic and unfair" to expect them to patrol the aisles looking for people breaking the coronavirus regulations.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs: "Should an individual without an exemption refuse to wear a face covering, a shop can refuse them entry and can call the police if people refuse to comply.

"The police have formal enforcement powers and can issue a fine."

Mr Hancock said face coverings would help give people "more confidence to shop safely" and help protect staff.

They have "suffered disproportionately" during the outbreak, with the death rate of sales and retail staff 75% higher amongst men and 60% higher amongst women than in the general population, he said.

Britain's most senior police officer has said she hopes shoppers who refuse to wear masks will be "shamed" into compliance.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told LBC that calling the police over someone failing to wear a face covering should only be "a last resort".

The Police and Crime Commissioners for Devon and Cornwall and Thames Valley have said officers will not attend incidents where shoppers refuse to wear masks, unless they turn violent.

Andy Marsh, chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, told a Facebook Live session the force has "very limited capacity" to enforce the rules, and would only have a role in "a tiny minority" of cases.

He said: "It certainly won't be the case that we will be encouraging people to call us if you see someone not wearing a face mask. And I can't offer any assurance that police officers will routinely be able to attend such incidents."

Dame Cressida said if shop keepers are concerned and "have tried everything else", her officers will try to assist.

She told Nick Ferrari: "Calling the police should be a last resort for dealing with a mask issue. But of course the law is the law."

Dame Cressida went on: "My hope is that the vast majority of people will comply, and that people who are not complying will be shamed into complying or shamed to leave the store by the store keepers or by other members of the public.

"If somebody is concerned about what is going on in their store, yes, of course they should call the police and we will try to assist."

She said that supermarkets have managed to maintain social distancing and queuing themselves, only rarely needing to call the police.

"During the beginning of lockdown the larger stores that were opening, the supermarkets and things were open, some of them brought in security guards, but they have been able to maintain the social distancing and the sensible queuing.

"We patrol around and speak to shops, but they've only called us rarely to assist, and that is what I hope would happen on this occasion."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said shop staff should ask customers to obey the rules before taking further action.

"It's correct to say that in the first instance businesses are encouraged to ask customers to comply with the rules and if they refuse they can ask people to leave," he said.

"Shop owners will be able to escalate to the police if needed.

"But as we have seen throughout the pandemic, the overwhelming majority of the public can be expected to follow the rules without any need for enforcement action.

"The public has shown its commitment to helping to stop the spread of coronavirus."