Retail workers will be forced to wear face coverings under new restrictions announced by the prime minister today. Boris Johnson said masks would become obligatory for shop assistants and workers in pubs, restaurants and cafés in England, with governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland expected to take similar steps.
Staff who fail to wear masks could face fines of up to £200 under the new government clampdown, which is understood to be coming in on Thursday, though industry sources said they were still pushing for greater clarity over the timetable and penalties for non-compliance.
Some reports suggest the move will come in from Monday. Most supermarkets have been encouraging workers on the shop floor to wear masks since July, when it became compulsory for customers to wear face coverings in shops in England.
However, the new crackdown, which comes amid growing fears of a second wave of coronavirus, follows accusations that retail staff not having to wear masks may discourage shoppers from wearing them, or cause flashpoints between the two.
Also affected will be customers in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, who will be required to wear face coverings while moving around on the premises, but not while they are seated at tables.
The changes formed part of a package of tightened restrictions announced by the prime minister in response to an upsurge in Covid infections across the country, also including a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants.
Today’s new measures include all pubs, bars and restaurants having to operate on a table service-only basis and having to close at 10pm. From Thursday, takeaways must also close at 10pm but can operate a delivery service beyond that time.
Johnson also told the Commons that if office workers could work from home, they should do so, which will affect thousands of back office staff in the industry who had been returning to offices in recent weeks, at least part-time. Industry leaders said the changes posed major challenges for the food industry.
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