29th September 2022

ULCCI

United Liberal Catholic Churches International

‘What I won’t be doing is asking my store colleagues to police those who refuse to adhere to the rules’

Masks compulsory in shops from today as Iceland boss says he won’t ask staff to enforce new rules

Face masks have once again become mandatory in shops in England from this morning, but one supermarket chain will not be asking its staff to enforce the tighter Covid restrictions. 

Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that owing to the new Omicron variant, self-isolation would be mandatory for close contacts of the mutation regardless of vaccine status and face coverings must be worn on public transport and in shops.

Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, said that while he was in favour of the stricter guidance, it was not up to supermarkets to enforce the changes. 

He told the BBC’s Radio 4 today programme: “I suppose the question isn’t whether we should mandate face masks whether we can mandate them. 

“And what I won’t be doing is asking my store colleagues to police those who refuse to adhere to the rules.

“They’re already working under significant pressure, especially as we hit the busiest trading month of the year.”

During the first lockdown, Mr Walker received more than 50 reports a week from staff members who had been verbally abused for enforcing mask wearing in shops during the first lockdown in 2020. Advertisement

When he subsequently told his employees to stop challenging customers, this dropped tenfold to around five incidents a week. 

He added: “I think if the Government wants to want this to happen, then they must step in to help businesses like ours and police the wearing of masks.

“We’ll be politely asking customers to adhere to these new rules. We’re putting up window posters asking them to do so as well. 

“We spend millions on security each year as well about the scale of this is such that we simply cannot police every store every hour of every day. It will cost millions and put us out of business. 

“I think my store colleagues have obviously been heroic throughout the pandemic, making sure that food have been kept on the shelves. And their support has been crucial in building that consumer confidence.”

What are the new restrictions? 

The new restrictions are as follows: 

  1. Anyone arriving in the UK will be asked to take a PCR test for Covid-19 by the second day and must self-isolate until they provide a negative test.
  2. All contacts of people who do test positive with the suspected variant will have to self-isolate for 10 days. The Government confirmed that this applies to children.
  3. The rules on face coverings are changing. They will become compulsory on public transport and in shops from next week, but not including hospitality. Teachers and pupils in Year 7 and above are now being “strongly advised” to wear masks in communal areas outside classrooms in England.

We cannot be expected to enforce new mask rules, say retail bosses

Retail bosses have warned that they cannot be expected to enforce new rules requiring staff and customers to wear masks in shops.

New face covering rules have come into force in England on Tuesday in response to concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), stressed that it is the role of the authorities to enforce these new regulations, adding that customers also have responsibility to adhere to the rules.

“Retailers will be communicating the new rules on face coverings in England through in-store signage and other channels,” she said.

“However, it is vital that we do not place hardworking retail staff in harm’s way, and enforcement of face coverings must remain the duty of the authorities.

“Furthermore, we all have an individual responsibility to put on a face covering before entering a shop.”

It is the latest challenge for retailers ahead of a key Christmas period. They have already seen pressure from supply chain disruption and labour shortages.

Ms Dickinson added: “While there may be small changes in the way we shop, we ask people to be considerate and we remain confident that everyone can get what they need for a fun and festive Christmas this year.”

Retail bosses have warned that they have seen rising violence and abuse against shop workers in recent years, but that this has been further exacerbated by the pandemic and enforcement of Covid regulations in stores.

People will also now be required to wear face coverings and masks on public transport, too.

The Unite trade union has called for face covering to also become mandatory in pubs, cafes and restaurants after they were not included in the rule change.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “We must ask why hospitality is the only area in the public arena where face masks are not compulsory.

“Does the Government consider the health and safety of hospitality workers less of a priority than that of workers in other sectors?

“It is outrageous that hospitality workers are being left to police the wearing of face masks due to the lack of proper mandatory rules or effective legislation.”

Q&A: What are the Covid rule changes from Tuesday?

Measures to slow the spread of the newly-identified Omicron coronavirus variant came into force on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the rules over the weekend amid concerns about the effectiveness of vaccines against the new variant.

What are the new rules on face coverings?

Face coverings are again compulsory in England in shops and settings such as banks, post offices, hairdressers, and public transport, unless people are exempt. Hospitality settings such as pubs and restaurants are not affected.

Pupils in year 7 and above, teachers and visitors should wear face coverings in communal areas in schools, colleges and universities in England.

The reintroduction of compulsory face coverings brings England closer into line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What are the new rules on international travel?

Anyone entering the UK from any destination abroad will have to take a PCR test within two days of arrival and self-isolate until they have a negative result.

Previously, vaccinated travellers only had to take a Day 2 lateral flow test, and did not have to self-isolate unless they received a positive result.

The UK’s travel red list was expanded over the weekend to include 10 African nations: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, forcing arrivals into hotel quarantine for 10 days.

What about vaccines?

The booster vaccine campaign has been expanded, with a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine now offered to all adults three months after people had their second dose of an original vaccine.

A second jab will be offered to young people aged 12 to 15.

The Prime Minister said: “Based on everything we know, our vaccines and boosters remain our best line of defence, so it is more important than ever that people come forward when eligible to get boosted”.

What are the other new rules?

All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their age or vaccination status. They will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Why are the new rules being implemented?

The Prime Minister said the measures are “proportionate and responsible” and will “buy us time in the face of this new variant”.

Scientists are concerned by the Omicron, or B.1.1.529 variant, because it has a high number of spike protein mutations, potentially changing the behaviour of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility. All this is still uncertain, and the precautions give scientists time to properly study the new variant.

The Government said the “temporary and precautionary” measures will be reviewed in three weeks, just days before Christmas.

What are the restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Unlike in England, people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have to prove their vaccine status to enter nightclubs and other venues.

Face coverings are compulsory in most indoor public spaces, including pubs and restaurants in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Working from home is recommended where possible.

In Scotland, indoor hospitality venues must collect customer contact details.

In Northern Ireland, gatherings of 30 people or more in domestic settings are not permitted.