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    Enforcing mask rules again can be ‘trigger for abuse’, fear retailers

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    Retailers should not be expected to police the reintroduction of mandatory mask wearing in shops in England from Tuesday (30), said Richard Walker- the boss of the Iceland grocery chain while a retailer association fears an increase in potential abuse when shoppers will be asked to mask up.

    “My store colleagues can’t be expected to police those who refuse,” Walker said, calling for more support for businesses when it comes to enforcing Covid restrictions.

    “We spend millions on security each year but the scale of this is such that we simply cannot police every store, every hour of every day. It would cost millions and put us out of business,” Walker told BBC’s Today Programme, before adding that Iceland would be “politely asking customers” to follow the rules but he won’t ask staff to enforce masks.

    “The question isn’t whether we should mandate face masks, it’s whether we can mandate them,” he said. “What I won’t be doing is asking my store colleagues to police those who refuse to adhere to the rules.”

    Walker added that asking people to wear masks made staff a target for abuse. 

    Face masks today became compulsory again in shops and on public transport in England as part of efforts to contain the new omicron strain of Covid-19.

    The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), which represents thousands of independent shopkeepers, said its members were concerned about potential abuse when asking customers to mask up.

    ACS chief executive James Lowman said, “We are helping retailers to prepare for the change in face covering rules, but they are extremely concerned about abuse against their staff from customers who don’t want to wear a face covering in a shop. We will continue to urge stores to communicate the rules, but not to challenge those who refuse to abide by them.” 

    “The first response from retailers was that this would lead to a lot of abuse from people refusing to wear face coverings. There could be an issue as there is a bit more of a backlash around Covid regulations than there has been in the past,” The Guardian quoted ACS spokesperson Chris Noice as saying.

    “We know from previous lockdowns that reminding people about face coverings and social distancing is a big trigger for abuse and [store workers] are hesitant about challenging people.”

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