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Police set to leave mask enforcement to shop workers

PUBLISHED: 08:24 20 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:12 20 July 2020

Wearing a face covering or mask will now be mandatory when buying food to go from July 24. Pic: Gareth Fuller/PA

Wearing a face covering or mask will now be mandatory when buying food to go from July 24. Pic: Gareth Fuller/PA

The chairman of Norfolk’s police federation has said he expects the onus of enforcing the mandatory wearing of face masks to fall with shopkeepers - as the constabulary does not have the capacity to do it.

Andy Symonds, chair of the Norfolk Police Federation. PIC: Supplied by Andy Symonds.Andy Symonds, chair of the Norfolk Police Federation. PIC: Supplied by Andy Symonds.

From Friday, July 24, it will be compulsory for people in England to cover their face or wear a mask while inside shops and supermarkets - with a fine of up to £100 for those who do not comply.

On announcing the measure last week, the government said the police would be expected to take on the task of enforcing the measure.

However, Andy Symonds, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, has said its members just do not have the capacity to do this - alongside the additional roles they have already been given during the pandemic and day-to-day policing.

Mr Symonds said: “We want to make it clear what our expectations are in terms of our involvement. We will step back and allow the shops to administer and manage the new regulations, with clear signage.

“They have been very good up to now in managing their customers with social distancing, so I expect they will do the same here and make it very clear: no mask, no entry.”

Mr Symonds added that he had been left frustrated by the lack of notice the government gave forces across the country regarding the new measures - adding it had been unclear in its messages over face masks in the past.

He also said he feared the constabulary was being put at risk of becoming “the face mask police”.

He said: “If there is a call in to say somebody is not wearing a face mask, particularly if they have already left the premises, we really haven’t got time to be chasing them, unfortunately.

“I would only want our Norfolk Police officers to be going to retail premises if there is a crime in progress or about to happen, or if they fear of somebody’s safety.

“What I don’t want us to turn into, because we don’t have the capacity, is the face mask police.

We’ve got swathes of areas to police and lots of other jobs to be doing - we are spread thinly enough without having to start reacting to calls of someone not wearing a face mask in a private premises.”

MORE: Face covering in shops - what you need to know


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