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Supermarkets face increased inspections from local councils to make sure they are Covid-19 secure amid a push from the government to clamp down further on coronavirus transmission.
Local government officials have been asked by ministers to target the largest supermarkets for inspection to ensure companies are enforcing mask wearing, social distancing and limits on shopper numbers.
Robert Jenrick, the cabinet minister for local government, as well as housing, will ask for “robust measures” by retailers, a government spokesperson has said. Local authorities already carry out safety inspections on premises routinely, and have the power to issue improvement notices, with possible fines or even jail time for repeated non-compliance.
The Local Government Association (LGA), the body which represents English and Welsh councils, said its members would work with the police to take action against any breaches of rules. The push for increased scrutiny on supermarkets was first reported by the Daily Telegraph.
Supermarkets and other food retailers have remained open throughout the pandemic because of their essential role. During the latest wave of national lockdowns in the UK the government has repeatedly signalled concerns about the spread of a more transmissible variant of the virus in supermarkets, given increasing infection numbers despite most other venues being closed.
Morrisons and Sainsbury’s both said last week that they would increase efforts to enforce lockdown rules such as the mandatory wearing of masks, except for those people with medical exemptions. Morrisons said it would refuse to serve people if they did not comply, while Sainsbury’s said it would put security staff on the door of bigger shops.
However, some supermarkets have balked at the suggestion that the industry was not previously doing enough to help combat a rapid rise in infection numbers. Some supermarkets said they would not be able to enforce rules on mask wearing without extra help from the police, and police sources said they would not have the resources to enforce mask wearing.
The LGA said councils already had a role in spreading government messaging about safety and health during the pandemic. Councils have also shared safety checklists with counterparts, as well as helping shops and other venues with signage and floor markings, and using Covid-19 marshals to manage busy areas and to review business risk assessments, a legal requirement.
A spokesman for the LGA said: “Supermarkets have been highlighted as areas of concern as one of the few types of business still able to be open. Some supermarkets have started to enforce their rules more effectively through the use of security guidance, and hopefully more will follow suit to help reduce transmission risk in these high-footfall areas.
“Councils will continue to work with local partners, including the police, to ensure they keep people safe and take action, if necessary and appropriate, against any breaches to help reduce infection rates.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Councils have been at the forefront of the response to the pandemic and at this critical point it is vital that everyone plays their part.
“As part of this, the local government secretary is talking to councils about how they can work with retailers to ensure robust measures are in place to help protect the community.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK supermarkets face more inspections over Covid-19 compliance | Supermarkets