Aldi, Tesco and Waitrose are just three supermarkets, amongst all in the UK, where Boris Johnson enforced compulsory mask wearing indoors from December 10.
With Omicron surging throughout the capital, mask wearing is more important than ever to try and combat the new variant, which has affected London especially harshly.
Visiting West London branches of Aldi, Tesco and Waitrose on December 27, it was clear that for many people Christmas supplies were running short, as were their supplies of masks.
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All three had signs outside which urged customers to wear a face covering, except, of course, if the customers were exempt.
Two of the supermarkets I visited had a very high level of mask wearing customers but there was one which the rule didn’t seem to apply to.
Out of all the supermarkets, Waitrose in West Ealing, had the least amount of restrictions abiding citizens and even with security standing on the doors, the message wasn’t being drilled in.
(Image: Finn Byrne)
Waitrose was much busier than the other two supermarkets so it was more obvious to spot maskless outliers, however, the proportion of mask wearing shoppers was definitely lower compared to West Ealing’s Tesco and Aldi.
When shopping in Aldi, I didn’t see a single person without a mask, within Tesco, there were only 4 or 5 without, but in Waitrose this dramatically increased to around 20.
The abundance of the maskless meant that Waitrose became a much less enjoyable shopping experience.
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I don’t think I was alone in feeling this way either. Those not wearing masks were getting dirty looks and side eyes from those that read and conformed to the new coronavirus protocol.
As of December 10 masks were made compulsory for staff and shoppers in big supermarkets as well as local stores.
In response the British Retail Consortium, which represents shops across the UK, said that enforcement is a matter for the police, but that customers should respect the rules and be considerate.
The Association of Convenience Stores, representing 33,500 local shops, says it doesn’t expect staff to challenge unmasked customers as it can be “a major trigger for abuse”.
Police will enforce regulations “where it is necessary,” said the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) to the BBC.
“If officers encounter individuals not wearing a face covering on public transport or in shops, they will engage with them, explain the risks and encourage them to comply.”
According to the NPCC, 2,306 Fixed Penalty Notices were issued in England and Wales in the year to July. Meanwhile, 641 people were fined for failing to wear a mask on public transport or for obstructing those enforcing the law.
Have you seen many people without a mask when shopping? Let us know in the comments.
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