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Shopkeepers can refuse entry and call the police if people don’t wear facemasks, Matt Hancock says

Shopkeepers can refuse entry and call the police if people don’t wear facemasks, Matt Hancock says

The wearing of masks in shops is set to become mandatory (Credit: PA)

3 min read

Shopkeepers can refuse entry and call the police if people refuse to abide by new rules on wearing facemasks indoors, Matt Hancock has told the Commons.

The Health Secretary said he wanted to “give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protections for those who work in shops", as he confirmed the new regulations will come into force on July 24.

Mr Hancock said the mandatory wearing of masks on public transport and in NHS settings had already given people reassurance, and that those who failed to adhere to the rule in shops could face £100 fines.

Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

And he warned: “The liability for wearing a face covering lies with the individual. Should an individual without an exemption refuse to wear a face covering, a shop can refuse them entry."

The Health Secretary also said sales assistants, cashiers and security guards had all "suffered disproportionately" in the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75% higher amongst men and 60% higher amongst women than in the general population," he said. “So as we restore shopping, so we must keep our shopkeepers safe."

But shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the government "yet again...appears to be in the slow lane" and accused frontbenchers of mixed messaging in the days leading up to the announcement.

"After days of ministerial muddle, we finally have a decison," he said.

"I've long warned that this virus exploits ambiguity and that mixed messaging in a pandemic is so damaging.

"On Friday we had the Prime Minister saying he favoured facemasks.  On Sunday we had the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster saying he didn't favour facemasks.

"Yesterday the Justice Secretary, unsure what to say, had to say in the end he was perhaps in favour of facemasks.

"It didn't have to be this way.  We didn’t have to have this confusion."

Mr Ashworth said ministers had "long known" about the dangers of airborne transition of the virus and that the World Health Organization had recommended the wearing of face coverings.

"Why has it taken two months to make this advice mandatory and why will it take another 11 days for the measure to come in?," he added.


Meanwhile, John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, has said the move to mandate face mask use will "add pressure to police officers who are already being stretched to the limit".

“The vast majority of the public have complied with the lockdown rules so far and I would hope that will continue and the public will do the right thing and wear face coverings in stores to help protect fellow citizens," he added.

The policing boss said office should only be called to enforce measures as a "very last resort and involve only those few individuals who blatantly ignore guidelines and are a clear health risk to others".

Mr Apter added: “Only as this last resort should the police get involved. To expect my colleagues to be policing the supermarket aisles, looking for those shoppers not wearing a face covering, is unrealistic and unfair.

“We simply don’t have the resources, and this would fundamentally undermine the model of policing, which is to police by consent."

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