Suffolk shop-owners call for clarity on face mask plans
PUBLISHED: 15:29 14 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:29 14 July 2020
Shop-owners and business leaders in Suffolk have called on the government for more clarity regarding the new rules around face coverings.
In a statement on Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that wearing a face covering in a store was to become mandatory from July 24.
He said that anyone who fails to comply with the order could face a fine of up to £100.
Shopkeepers have been reassured that they will not be asked to ensure that customers are wearing masks and they themselves will not be made to wear one.
Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, a No 10 spokesman said: “There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus.
“The prime minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops and we will make this mandatory from July 24.”
But Suffolk business leaders have asked for the rules to be set out before then.
Paul Simon, head of communications and campaigns at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “Suffolk businesses need complete clarity on the approach to the wearing of face coverings that is consistent and supported by public health evidence.
“Shops and other indoor businesses, in particular, need to know what the new rules are as soon as possible.
“Updated guidance, including on enforcement, should be issued swiftly so firms can maintain their Covid-secure status and continue their operations successfully.”
Fiona Coe, marketing manager at Coes in Ipswich, echoed his concerns. She said: “We haven’t as yet sat down as a management group and come up with a strategy because the government haven’t issued any guidelines as yet. “Until the government give us the guidelines it’s difficult for us to say we are going to do X, Y and Z.
“But we have a social responsibility like everyone else to make sure we are protecting our staff and our customers and because of that we will be wearing face masks.
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“The only thing the government has said is that it’s not up to retailers to police the system. I can’t say at the moment whether we will say to people: ‘You can’t come in unless you wear a face mask’. But at this point in time we will be encouraging people to wear face masks.
“We won’t be doing anything until July 24 and until we know the exact guidelines.”
Coes staff were issued with face masks when the store reopened on June 16 and Mrs Coe said an increasing number of the store’s customers are wearing masks.
“I think it will become part of our daily life that people across all industries will be wearing one. Hopefully people will just pick up their keys, pick up their wallet and their face mask before they jump in their car.
“That message of social responsibilty seems to be getting across.”
But another Ipswich-based family of retailers have differing opinions over the effect of masks upon shoppers’ confidence.
John Manning, owns The House in Town furniture store on St Peters Street in Ipswich. His mother, Wendy Childs, owns Maud’s Attic an eclectic independent store next door.
Mr Manning said: “I absolutely think it will improve peoples confidence. While it’s not ideal, I don’t see it as a bad thing.
“My business is based around having a coffee and a chat and being quite sociable – so I find the idea of masks a bit unnerving.
“But I do believe that those people who are lacking the confidence to go out may find a renewed sense of confidence to do so.
Ms Childs disagreed.
She said: “I do think it will make some shoppers more confident. But I’ve been very, very busy this last week and people on the whole haven’t been wearing masks.
“The majority of my customers so far have not been wearing one. They’re very sensible and very polite. Everyone’s been social distancing and everyone’s used the sanitiser – I think they’ll be sensible on what they do regarding the mask as well.”
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