New face mask rules were imposed in England from today, meaning people who use public transport, enter shops and innumerable other venues have to wear a compulsory face covering.
England dropped mandatory face mask rules back in July, but they remained in place in neighboring countries like Scotland, where official data shows infection rates remained the same or higher.
According to Oxford Professor Jim Naismith, re-imposing face mask rules is “unlikely to have much of an impact” on the spread of the Omicron variant.
Wary of how contentious the issue has become, Iceland and Co-op, two large supermarket chains in the UK, have publicly said they will tell staff not to enforce such rules.
Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, said the company would instead be concentrating its efforts on the “long-term recovering of the high street.”
“We fully support the reintroduction of compulsory face masks in shops, however, we won’t be asking our store colleagues to police it,” said Walker.
Co-op’s Paul Gerrard went further, telling GMB, “”What we won’t do is we won’t refuse to serve people who aren’t wearing a mask and we won’t refuse entry to the shop to people who aren’t wearing a mask.”
“I won’t be asking my store colleagues to police those who refuse to adhere to the rules because I know that, bizarrely, this is a divisive issue, and I think my store colleagues have got enough to deal with in the run-up to Christmas,” he added.
The British Retail Consortium said that it was the responsibility of the police to enforce the rules, adding: “Customers are asked to respect the rules and be considerate to their fellow shoppers and to hard-working shop staff.”