Supermarkets have said they will encourage customers to keep using face masks in stores from next week – but will not bar those who do not.
Retailers including Tesco and Asda have followed Sainsbury’s in setting out how they will operate from 19 July when most COVID-19 safety rules will be scrapped in England.
Wearing masks in shops will no longer be a legal requirement from Monday but guidance published by the government says it “expects and recommends that people continue to wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces”.
Critics say the guidance fails to provide enough clarity for employers, who are being asked to make their own risk assessments about what to do, with just days to spare until the rules change.
A spokeswoman for the Co-op, which like rivals will support continued use of masks, said it would not enforce the policy highlighting the fear that this could be a “flashpoint for violence and abuse” towards staff.
John Lewis Partnership, the owner of John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets, said wearing face coverings would be a decision “for each individual to take”.
Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket, said it was asking customers and staff to “be on the safe side”.
Here’s what retailers are saying about how they will operate in England from next week:
“We’re asking our customers and colleagues to be on the safe side, and so from 19 July we’ll be encouraging our colleagues to wear face coverings whilst they work and encouraging our customers to do the same when they shop with us,” a spokesperson said.
Other continued safety measures will include limits on the number of people in store at any time with a “one in, one out” system, protective screens at every check-out, hand sanitiser stations and regular cleaning.
There will also still be signs up to help people keep a safe distance as well as separate entrances and exits.
It is understood that Tesco will not refuse entry to those who do not wear a mask.
New signs and tannoy messages in stores will encourage customers to continue to wear a face covering “if they can”.
“While wearing a face covering will become a personal choice, the decision to ask everyone in stores to continue to wear a face covering if they can reflects feedback from customers and colleagues where the majority of people surveyed want to keep the policy in place,” the supermarket said.
Screens between staff and customers at check-outs will remain but those between self-service check-outs and dividing checkout queues will be gradually removed from stores in England.
Hand sanitiser stations will remain in all stores and thorough cleaning of trollies and baskets, as well as deep cleaning overnight, will also continue.
A spokesperson said: “We encourage customers to be respectful to each other and to follow the government guidance on face coverings when shopping in our stores after 19 July.”
Signs and announcements in stores will encourage people to keep wearing masks and they will be provided at the front of stores for those who wish to wear one.
Other measures including the use of hand sanitisers, trolley and basket cleaning and screens at check-outs will also continue.
The discount supermarket said it would “continue to encourage customers and colleagues to wear face coverings when they’re in store” while other measures such as hand sanitiser and screens would also stay in place.
“Although no longer legally required, the government recommends that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded or indoor spaces and we will have signage in place at store entrances reminding our customers of this,” Lidl said.
“The Perspex screens at checkouts and hand sanitising stations will also remain in place across all our stores for the time being as we gradually enter this next phase.”
John Lewis and Waitrose
John Lewis Partnership will recommend customers and staff in England continue to wear a face covering, unless exempt, from 19 July, a spokesperson said.
“The decision over whether to do so or not, when in our shops, will be for each individual to take, based on their own judgment,” the spokesperson added.
Perspex screens, hand sanitising stations and other hygiene and cleaning measures will remain.
Signs at stores will say: “Please feel free to wear a face covering in our store.”
The Co-op also said it would “encourage all shoppers to be respectful of people’s personal space when in the store”.
Screens and sanitising stations will also remain but stores will not enforce mask wearing.
A spokeswoman said: “It’s not our place to enforce face coverings or to refuse to serve a customer who chooses not to wear one, as it can be a flashpoint for violence and abuse towards our store teams.”
“Given our enclosed browsing environment, we encourage our customers to wear face masks and observe social distancing, respecting the safety of staff and fellow book lovers,” the bookshop chain said in a tweet.
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