Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hinted face coverings, which are already compulsory on public transport, could be made mandatory in shops in England to slow the spread of COVID-19. Face coverings are already compulsory in Scottish shops.
However, cabinet office minister Michael Gove said that, while face coverings are “basic good manners” inside shops, they would not become mandatory. The sector is calling for clarity on face coverings in shops across England. In Scotland face masks are mandatory for all shops.
“The UK is an outlier among much of Western Europe in terms of its approach to face coverings, with the ‘good faith’ approach contrasting with the enforced mandatory wearing of masks whilst in shops and other businesses in Germany, Spain and Italy. We will not debate the science behind the wearing of masks but it is clear some clarity needs to be given, particularly as concern levels among UK consumers remains high.
Indeed looking across Mintel’s latest European COVID-19 tracker data (1-9 July 2020), what is notable is that over half (55%) of UK consumers say they would be currently uncomfortable about visiting a restaurant/bar indoors. This is the highest level within Europe, slightly ahead of Spain (51%) and significantly ahead of Italy (39%), France (36%), and Germany (34%). Of course this higher level of concern is natural given the UK has lagged behind the timelines of these other nations, with such businesses only just re-opening in the UK but have been open close to two months in the likes of Germany.
However what it demonstrates is that whilst the Government is moving towards opening the economy up and encouraging consumers to spend, the concern levels among UK shoppers at present pose a barrier to achieving this. Any information or policy that can then be implemented, masks included, that can reduce barriers to visitation must be looked into if the aim is to get consumers back onto the high street. What is crucial is that retailers and other businesses are given enough advance warning of these changes, allowing them the time to themselves gain stocks of single use masks, to ensure footfall is not further impeded by any rule change.”