Supermarkets still want shoppers to wear masks, despite end of Plan B Covid rules

·4 min read
Restrictions are lifted but shoppers will still be asked to wear masks in some shops - Victoria Jones/PA
Restrictions are lifted but shoppers will still be asked to wear masks in some shops - Victoria Jones/PA

Supermarkets will ask the public to keep wearing masks, despite Plan B rules being lifted by the Government.

From Thursday, mandatory Covid-19 certificates and face coverings will no longer be required at indoor venues, with the Prime Minister’s spokesman saying they would be a matter of “personal judgment”.

Despite this, many venues - including shops such as Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Waitrose and Morrisons - will ask people to wear masks in their stores.

Trade unions such as Usdaw, which represents 360,000 retail workers, called on the public to wear face coverings despite the requirement to do so having ended.

Sadiq Khan has also insisted that omicron still poses a significant threat to the capital, despite figures showing that London has the lowest coronavirus case rate in the country.

The London mayor has said that face masks will remain mandatory on the London Underground and buses when Plan B measures end. He has also called on the Government to keep them in shops and indoor venues.

However, latest available figures show that seven-day case rates in the city were 850 per 100,000 people on January 21, with a fall of nearly six per cent in the past week.

In contrast, the rest of the regions are seeing case rates between 926 and 1,258 per 100,000 people.

London business owners said the requirement to wear masks on the Tube and buses was creating an atmosphere of fear, putting people off from returning to London as normal.

Hugh Osmond, who founded the Punch Taverns group and has invested in a number of the capital’s restaurants, said: “Being told to wear masks on tubes and buses creates a psychological message that people should still be fearful and not go back to work and not travel into the capital.

“It’s a signal for people to be worried, which has a tremendously damaging impact on the economy and specifically the hospitality sector.

“It’s a destructive message which keeps people away from what they would normally do, such as visiting pubs and restaurants, and other activities.

“That’s not only economically damaging, but also to their mental health and wellbeing.”

Other industries, despite the impact of restrictions on footfall and the profitability of the sector, also urged venues to keep masks in place.

'Protect our hard-working staff'

Julian Bird, chief executive of UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre, said he supported people continuing to wear face coverings - despite bookings for the first part of 2022 being well below expectations.

“As restrictions ease, we continue to ask theatregoers to wear face coverings throughout our buildings unless exempt, to protect our hard-working staff, performers and fellow audience members,” he said.

Individual theatres - such as the Coliseum in London, home to English National Opera - said it would be keeping masks until at least Feb 15.

The night economy, such as clubs -one of the hardest hit by the pandemic - welcomed the dropping of the rules, sating it had been a “debilitating and divisive mitigation”.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said that the effect of Plan B measures was still being felt by the industry.

He added that “many businesses are now concerned that they will struggle to survive beyond February”.

The Government is still advising that people wear masks in crowded and enclosed spaces where they come into contact with strangers, although it is no longer a legal requirement.

Sajid Javid, the Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “Our vaccines, testing and antivirals ensure we have some of the strongest defences in Europe and are allowing us to cautiously return to Plan A, restoring more freedoms to this country.

“As we learn to live with Covid we need to be clear-eyed that this virus is not going away, so if you haven’t already – please come forward for your first, second or booster jab.”

A John Lewis spokesperson said: “We value the safety of our customers and Partners and continue to follow the latest Government guidelines.

“From Thursday 27 January, we'll be suggesting our customers wear masks in our stores, although it will be down to individuals to make a personal choice.”

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