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More accustomed to looking out for shoplifters, one security guard standing by the front door of Sainsbury’s in Colindale, north-west London, seemed ambivalent about his new role. “The reality is that we can’t stop everyone without a face mask from coming in,” he said.
The supermarket chain joined Morrisons last night in announcing that face coverings would now be compulsory in all of their stores. Sainsbury’s said specially trained security guards would be responsible for enforcing the policy, and Morrisons said customers who didn’t come with their own masks would be offered one to wear.
While compliance with the new rules was relatively high on Tuesday morning, the introduction of the stricter policy had not been universally welcomed. “One lady came in with no mask and refused to wear the one we offered her. She literally just took it and held it in her basket,” a staff member said. Management had to be called and the woman, after a certain amount of shouting and abuse, left.
Other customers had also reacted negatively to being told to wear a mask correctly or at all, he said, and there just wasn’t the manpower available in-store to make every abusive person, or those who wouldn’t produce evidence of an exemption, leave.
Shoppers arriving at the Morrisons up the road were also met by a security guard instructing them to put on a mask – or to wear the mask they had on properly.
When the Guardian visited the store, customers were largely obeying the rules, sanitising their hands, wiping down their shopping trolleys and keeping their distance on the escalator as they made their way inside, although some had pulled their masks down once in-store.
Staff said several non-exempt people had been turned away that morning for not having a mask and refusing the one offered to them. They said it was sometimes difficult to challenge a customer who claimed to be medically exempt but produced no evidence, as the reason for someone’s exemption was not always visibly discernible.
“Some customers wear the flower lanyard [to signify hidden disabilities], others will produce medical papers as evidence. But with people who seem relatively young, healthy and able-bodied, it can be very difficult for us when they have no proof that they are exempt,” said one member of staff. In these cases, however, they are asked to leave, he said.
Police would only be called in the event of a customer being particularly obstructive or violent, staff at both supermarkets said, as they acknowledged that forces were overly stretched as it is.
The other major supermarket chains – Tesco, Asda and Waitrose – have since followed suit, announcing that they too will be enforcing strict mask-wearing in their stores amid fears that public compliance on social-distancing measures is well below the level it was previously.
Simon Roberts, the chief executive of Sainsbury’s, said: “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.”
Morrisons chief executive, David Potts, said: “Our store colleagues are working hard to feed you and your family, please be kind.”
One worker at Morrisons said that, despite the abuse, he was glad supermarkets were taking action. “I have to come here every day and I have a family at home that I don’t want to get sick. And that’s what a lot of shoppers tend to forget.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘We can’t stop everyone without a mask’: Sainsbury’s security guards on new rules | Coronavirus