LONDON—Two of the largest U.K. grocers have announced they will refuse service to shoppers who refuse to wear a face mask, unless the customer has a medical exemption, the BBC reports. Morrisons and Sainsbury’s will offer masks to customers who show up without one. Sainsbury’s also said they would also approach groups of shoppers to enforce social distancing.
Rivals Asda, Tesco and Waitrose followed with announcements of their own for their U.K. locations.
The moves come after the government expressed concern that retailers have not been enforcing mask regulations.
“Ultimately, the most important thing to do now is to make sure that actually enforcement—and of course the compliance with the rules—when people are going into supermarkets are being adhered to,” said Nadhim Zahawi, vaccines minister. “We need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way system.”
Morrisons replied that the chain had “introduced and consistently maintained thorough and robust safety measures in all our stores" since last year. The grocer said security guards would enforce the new mask regulations.
“Those who are offered a face covering and decline to wear one won’t be allowed to shop at Morrisons unless they are medically exempt,” said Morrisons CEO David Potts. “Our store colleagues are working hard to feed you and your family, please be kind.”
Sainsbury’s also said trained security personnel would approach shoppers not complying with the mask rule.
“The vast majority of customers are shopping safely, but I have also seen some customers trying to shop without a mask and shopping in larger family groups,” said CEO Simon Roberts. “Please help us to keep all our colleagues and customers safe by always wearing a mask and by shopping alone. Everyone’s care and consideration matters now more than ever.”
Sainsbury’s also sent messages to its customers reminding them of the mask rule and that customer limitations inside stores now apply.
“I know you’ll understand and support what we are trying to do,” Roberts wrote. “Together, these steps will go a long way to keep everyone safe, whether you are shopping or working with us.”
Waitrose has marshals checking for mask compliance, while Tesco has instituted customer limits in its stores as well. “We have clear signage explaining this, and we have packs of face coverings available for purchase near the front of our stores for any customers who have forgotten them,” a Tesco representative said.
Police have the enforcement responsibility of ensuring residents wear face coverings while shopping by levying fines.
For advice on handling mask disputes, see “Angry Words” in the September 2020 issue of NACS Magazine.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.