Face coverings to be made mandatory in all shops

Retail staff will be required to wear face coverings unless there is a partition installed or a space of two metres between them and customers



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16 July 2020

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Face coverings must now be worn in all shops, retail settings and shopping centres, the government announced yesterday evening.

Government said the strong advice is for people to start wearing the coverings immediately, although it said the regulations would take some time to draft.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin also said that retail staff will be required to wear face coverings unless there is a partition installed or a space of 2m between them and customers.

The Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA) has raised concerns regarding the practicality of the measure for staff working long shifts and compliance issues. The association has contacted the Taoiseach’s Department to be involved in consultations regarding the regulations.

Mandate trade union supports the wearing of face coverings but said it should not be retail staff members’ responsibility to enforce the rules.

Not staff’s responsibility

John Douglas, Mandate general secretary said: “We are very clear that workers must be free from forcing public compliance on the wearing of face coverings and that employers must put in place measures to protect staff against abusive behaviour in that regard.”

In a press release issued yesterday by the trade union which called for mandatory coverings, Douglas said: “Decisions to protect the lives of retail workers must be taken without unnecessary delay and following direct consultation with the workers representative union, Mandate.

“The UK Health Minister announced mandatory measures from 24th July to protect shop workers who he worryingly said, ‘can be up to 75% more likely to die from coronavirus than the general population.’”

Douglas added that the wearing of face coverings is not “a substitute” for alcohol-based hand washing and the continuing enforcement of social distancing measures.

“Rather,” he said, “the wearing of face masks in shops and supermarkets will be an added protective measure taken to ensure we can keep retail workers as safe as possible. Wearing face coverings in shops and supermarkets should be seen as a reasonable mitigation against the unprecedented risk posed by the coronavirus to those brave frontline workers.”

Negative staff incidents

ShelfLife reported earlier this week here, that should mandatory face coverings also be introduced by Northern Ireland’s executive, that Retail NI does not believe retailers should have to enforce the rules.

“We have already had incidents of shop staff trying to police social distancing being abused by a small minority of customers,” said Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts. “If it is introduced in Northern Ireland, like England, the police should enforce the regulations.”

Indeed, the measure looks likely in Northern Ireland, as it was widely reported yesterday that Health Minister Robin Swann is set to bring a proposal to the executive to make face coverings mandatory in shops.



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