Supermarkets are taking a tougher stance against shoppers not following Covid-19 rules to help curb the spread of the virus, with a police chief stating officers will be on standby to help with dissenters who become “aggressive”.
Following news of Morrisons enforcing the wearing of masks for customers unless they are medically exempt, Sainsbury’s announced it would follow suit with security staff at entrances to “challenge” shoppers who are not wearing masks or who enter stores in groups.
Metropolitan Police chief Dame Cressida Dick said London officers would be prepared to assist supermarket staff if customers became “obstructive and aggressive” when they were told they must wear a face covering.
Her comments came as supermarket workers expressed the difficulties in getting proof from customers who claim they are exempt from wearing a mask, while others have suffered abuse from shoppers after asking them to follow the rules.
A Tesco worker from Gloucestershire, said she was “horrified” by responses she had received after challenging customers, adding: “I find, and so do my colleagues, that it’s not as strict as the first lockdown.”
A staff member at an Asda store in north-west Merseyside said: “I used to ask people on the front door for proof of exemption and the abuse I got was mostly from the younger generation.
“My manager told me we have to offer them a mask but can’t enforce it so I feel it’s a waste of time.”
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said he believed all supermarkets should follow in Morrisons’ footsteps, suggesting some stores have become lax with safety measures.
Speaking on Times Radio, he said: “I think that, understandably, following the November lockdown there was an element of release and therefore the person at the door, the sanitation station, the traffic light system, the queues outside obviously receded a bit.
“What we hope now, and I know all of them will, that they’ll see their responsibility and start to put those things back in place.”
When asked whether police should intervene, he said some officers have issued fines in retail settings, adding: “What we hope is the vast majority of people, or everybody, will be encouraged to do so by the shop owner.”