With some exemptions, most shoppers in England must wear a face covering from today. Those who fail to follow the guidelines can be fined up to 100 pounds ($128).
A police representative, however, has said that it’s “impossible” for them to enforce the new rule, and he urged the public to “be nice” in this difficult situation.
The new government guideline that came into effect on Friday says that face coverings are now mandatory for customers over 11 years old in shops, supermarkets, shopping centres, banks, post offices, and transport hubs, while venues like eat-in restaurants, pubs, gyms, hairdressers, cinemas, and theaters will be exempt.
Those with disabilities or certain health conditions will also be exempt from the new rule. People in this category can print out a card showing they are not required to comply with the guidelines, but do not have to do so.
“As we move into the next stage of easing restrictions for the public, it is vital we continue to shop safely so that we can make the most of our fantastic retail industry this summer,” Health and Care Secretary Matt Hancock said.
Impossible to Enforce
John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation, told Sky News, “Not only is it going to be difficult [to enforce the new measure], it is going to be impossible. We simply can’t do it.”
He said the police force are already stretched thin.
“If people think they are going to see police officers outside every single store to ensure people are wearing masks then I am afraid they are going to be disappointed,” he said.
When speaking on BBC breakfast, Apter said shops also have the responsibility to educate the public, and only when someone won’t comply, and refuses to leave when asked, is it appropriate to call the police.
Apter said he hoped people would comply voluntarily so there wouldn’t be many cases that need police intervention. He also reminded people to “be nice” to each other.
If you’re out shopping today and you see somebody not wearing a face covering it may be because they have a hidden disability. Don’t jump to conclusions, don’t have a go at them. This is new for us all, it’s about keeping each other safe. Please be nice!
— John Apter (@PFEW_Chair) July 24, 2020
Meanwhile, many shops are not keen to enforce face coverings either.
Local news outlets said Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Costa Coffee have said they were not going to police their customers.
With the unemployment rate set to surge due to the impact of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, and many businesses finding it hard to restart at full speed, shops are stuck between a rock and a hard place to balance safety and their livelihood.
To Mask, Or Not To Mask
Scientific consensus on the benefit of face coverings in the Western world has shifted in the last few months. While Scotland made face coverings mandatory two weeks earlier, the government in England have been criticised for being slow to adopt the measure.
When questioned about this when he was in Scotland on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “There’s been dispute, I think, amongst the scientists over the course of the pandemic about the utility of the mask, but the advice is getting clearer and clearer that they can be a benefit. So we’re saying to people, wear them in shops and wear them on public transport.”