AFTER weeks of mixed messages, the government recently announced it will soon be mandatory to wear a face covering in supermarkets and other shops in England as a precaution to halt further spreading of Covid-19.
As of July 24, shoppers must cover their mouths and noses while in stores or risk a £100 fine – reduced to £50 if it is paid within 14 days.
The array of shops in Reading will soon have to implement the rule for every customer to wear a mask unless there is a medical reason not to.
The Chronicle spoke to some of the local businesses and shops the town has to offer to see what owners and employees thought of the new rule.
“As long as the customers are safe, that’s the main thing,” said Tom Plank, assistant manager of Sweatshop.
He added: “Not much has been decided on just yet, but we are constantly checking for government updates in order to make new rules.
“We have all the other measures in place for social distancing, and members of staff have always been wearing PPE for safety.
“But we also have a treadmill in store, and there would be an exception when using that because it can be very dangerous to wear a mask while running. We always deep clean it after someone has used it, so if the customer feels comfortable enough to take it off while on the treadmill we would advise them to.
“We will implement the new rule once it’s in place on July 24 – safety is our main priority.”
A spokeswoman from town shopping centre Broad Street Mall said: “From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our main priority has been the health and well-being of our staff, visitors and the wider community.
“Broad St. Mall remained open during lockdown to ensure people were able to access essential stores and services, therefore a number of safety measures have been in place throughout.
“The BSM management team will continue to adhere to government guidelines and will implement and revise safety measures when required to ensure the centre remains a safe shopping and working environment.
“We pride ourselves on the centre being an inclusive, welcoming space for all members of the community and we have a responsibility to make our staff and visitors feel safe.
“We are therefore asking anyone who visits the centre to follow the government guidance and to wear a face mask.
“We encourage people to shop safely and sensibly and to remember that we are all in this together.”
As an essential need, supermarkets have remained open throughout the entire lockdown period.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) released a statement on behalf of retailers such as Sainsbury’s, who directed The Chronicle to the BRC.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Retailers have made the safety of staff and customers their top priority and we support measures aimed at protecting the health of the public.
“While retailers will play their part in communicating the new rules on face coverings, they must not be the ones enforcing these rules. “With hundreds of incidents of violence and abuse directed at retail staff every day, we welcome the announcement that enforcement will be left to the authorities, rather than potentially putting hardworking retail colleagues in harm’s way.
“We look forward to further clarity over whether the wearing of face coverings will apply to shop staff.
“If so, there must be flexibility for colleagues who are in stores all day and can already benefit from other safety measures such as protective screens and 2m distancing.
“Retailers have already spent hundreds of millions installing perspex screens, implementing social distancing measures and providing additional cleaning in stores; we hope this announcement will make shoppers feel even more confident about returning to the high street.”
It will be up to police to dish out penalties and not business owners or shop workers, although they are being asked to encourage customers to comply.
There are a few exceptions to the new rules about face coverings in shops – children under 11 and people with certain disabilities and breathing conditions will be exempt.