THE compulsory wearing of face masks was ushered in yesterday to a mixed reception.
There were reports of rows between shoppers and a stand-off erupted over who should be policing the latest measures aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19.
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McDonald’s turned away customers not wearing face coverings — but Asda, Sainsbury’s and Costa Coffee were among those who refused to eject anyone.
Police made it clear they would intervene only as a “last resort”.
Face coverings must be worn at all times in stores, supermarkets, shopping centres, banks, building societies and Post Offices. The order also applies to transport hubs such as railway stations and airports, with £100 fines for those who do not comply.
But restaurants, pubs, gyms, hairdressers, beauty salons, leisure centres, cinemas, concert halls and theatres are exempt.
Staff members stood guard at the front door to McDonald’s restaurants, with a spokesperson for the fast-food giant saying the Government’s guidelines were clear and should be followed.
The majority of people were abiding by the rules but there were reports on social media of arguments in supermarket aisles.
Hapless former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was spotted inside a shop and a bank with no face covering in his Islington North constituency — but he was later seen walking out with a cup of coffee in a mask.
Shoppers at Silverlink Shopping Park in Newcastle said they were determined to help control the virus by wearing masks. Dorothy Tooley, 73, of South Shields, South Tyneside, said: “They have worked in countries like New Zealand and we need to follow suit.”
Photographer Cristina Licata, 43, of Basingstoke, Hants, was on her first trip to the shops in four months, adding: “I’ve been waiting for this rule to come in.”
Judith Molloy, 72, from St Helens, who was shopping in Liverpool One, said: “This should have started from day one.”
Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said shoppers who refuse to wear masks should be “shamed” into compliance.
But John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, insisted shops must enforce the measures.
He said: “This is a new way of living and I would urge retail outlets to play their part in making the rules crystal clear.
“If you are not wearing a face covering, you are not coming in. Officers will be there to help stores if needed but only as a last resort. We simply do not have the resources.”
Yet Tom Ironside, from the British Retail Consortium trade association, claimed: “Where the rules are not being followed, enforcement will be a matter for police.”
As part of the guidance, staff in places where face coverings are required are encouraged to “take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law”.
But Costa Coffee was among rebel firms who said it would “not be challenging customers” not wearing masks.
Sainsbury’s asked shoppers to continue “playing their part” but said its workers “will not be responsible for enforcing the rules”.
Asda also said it would “strongly encourage people to wear a face covering” but refused to ask non-wearers to leave.
Tesco began selling face coverings at the entrance and Waitrose staff reminded customers of the requirement.
Exemptions include children under 11, people with breathing problems and anyone who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability.
The British Medical Association said the rules were “long overdue”.
A recent study showed that if the entire population wore face coverings that were only 75 per cent effective, it would bring a transmission R rate down from 4.0 to under 1.0 without the need for lockdowns.
The law on face masks could be in place until at least January. Requiring the public to wear gloves as well is being considered.
Health minister Lord Bethell told a Commons debate on coronavirus regulations: “They remain an area that we’re looking at.”
The daily UK death toll was 123 yesterday.
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