'It's a welcome sight' - shop owners and workers happy for mandatory face masks

A man wearing a face mask on Oxford Street, London, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warns that coron

Wearing a face mask in shops will be mandatory from Tuesday - Credit: PA

The wearing of face masks will be mandatory in shops across Suffolk and Essex from Tuesday following the discovery of a new Omicron variant of Covid-19, including one in Brentwood.

Boris Johnson announced he was reintroducing the face covering rule for shoppers and those using public transport in a briefing on Saturday evening, having scrapped the rule in July. He the rules were temporary and would be reviewed after three weeks.

Traders have welcomed the announcement, hoping covering will help keep the spread of the new variant at bay.

Mandy Leeson, who owns interior shop Vanil in Woodbridge, said: "More people have come into the shop recently in masks, it's been better that they have been wearing face masks as it's got busier with Christmas shopping. I'm glad they are going to introduce it.

"I just think we have to act now rather than think everything is going away when it's clearly not. If we can wear face masks, which will clearly help keep this new variant away, I think it's a good thing."

The Christmas period is the busiest time of year for her shop and she emphasised how she wanted the business to stay open, but she is open to the prospect of further restrictions.

She added: "We just have to remember where we were this time last year."

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The positive sentiment around the decision was shared by Alice, who works at Loft & Spires in Bury St Edmunds.

"I'm happy about it to be honest," said Alice. "I didn't really like the fact that so many people had stopped wearing them, because I'm more at risk because I see so many people.

"It's a welcome sight, anything to stop this spread is a bonus. I don't think it should have been massively relaxed yet.

Loft and Spires already asks people to wait outside if it becomes too busy inside and they keep their doors open for airflow unless it is particularly windy.

Town development manager for Southwold, Hannah Wright believes the change won't mean too much for many shop owners as lots already ask shoppers to wear masks.

"If anything it will just be a nice additional reassurance for them, that it's now mandatory," said Hannah.

"Hopefully there won't be a lockdown.

"There may be the need for social distancing, I hope that it won't happen."

Hannah believes we will have to "wait and see" how dramatically the new variant spreads and judge its impact before making big decisions that will impact hospitality.

Though she found it reassuring that the "science is being followed" and how the Government  "reacted so quickly".