“IT’s unrealistic to expect police officers to become face mask monitors in the retail sector – we simply do not have enough resources.”
That’s the message from Brian Booth, West Yorkshire Police Federation Chairman, following the news that face coverings will become compulsory in shops from July 24.
From that date people must cover their nose and mouth when they go shopping or risk a £100 fine – reduced to £50 if it is paid within 14 days.
It will be up to police to dish out penalties and not business owners or shop workers, although they are being asked to encourage customers to comply.
Mr Booth’s warning comes at a time when it appears many people in Bradford have not yet adopted the habit of wearing a face mask or covering while out and about. Over one half-an-hour period yesterday, only 23 out of 100 customers who were seen walking through the entrance to Morrisons at Thornbury were wearing one.
And in around 40 minutes at The Broadway, 16 people wearing were seen wearing a mask and 85 without.
Mr Booth said: “Now the country is waking up from Covid, policing is really busy again. It’s unrealistic to expect my colleagues to become face mask monitors in the retail sector. We simply do not have enough resources.
“It goes without saying that they will be on hand to deal with the more extreme cases where things have gotten out of hand. Shopkeepers must not be left under any illusion that they have a part to play in engaging, explaining and encouraging compliance.”
Suzanne Watson, President of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said businesses need “clarity on the approach to the wearing of face coverings that is consistent and supported by public health evidence”.
She said: “Shops and other indoor businesses 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.”
The Bradford BID (Business Improvement District) has welcomed the news.
BID manager Jonny Noble said: “At its most basic level, it’s a common courtesy to others just in case you are asymptomatic and carrying the virus without knowing it and most people would expect others to treat them the same way. It’s especially important for shopkeepers and shop workers who are doing their best to provide as normal a service as possible to a stream of customers entering their premises from different areas and different households who may be putting them at risk without knowing it.
“Life after lockdown was always going to be very different and if this is what it takes to keep people safe then it should be our first priority.
“If everyone wears a mask, it will soon become second nature, ‘mask-shaming’ incidents will become a thing of the past and we will all be helping to keep each other safe. It should also help to make people more confident about going back into shops and helping our hard-hit retailers in their efforts to recover from the lockdown period.”
The Broadway said its guidelines will be adjusted in light of the news.
“As the guidance from the government states, the ownership is on the individual. We will, however, continue to monitor the situation and implement changes where necessary,” said General Manager Ian Ward.
Sarah Muckle, Director of Public Health for Bradford Council, said there is “growing evidence” on the benefits of wearing face coverings.
She said: “The risk of getting Covid-19 increases where people are indoors in places with less ventilation or in busy places.
“Wearing a face covering while out shopping will give people more confidence that they can do so safely and are doing all they can to protect themselves and others.”
The news has prompted a lot of debate.
One shopper going into Morrisons, who was wearing a mask, said: “It’s a worrying time, with Bradford having such a high number of cases. I think wearing a mask and having PPE is the most sensible thing to do at this time.”
Another shopper said: “When you’re leaving the house, the mask sometimes slips your mind and you forget to bring it out with you.
“But I think making them compulsory will help drill it home more, and it will it be easier to remember.”
But, not everyone is on board with the new ruling and some people have accused the Government acting ‘after the horse has bolted’.