As the sun rises on ‘freedom day’, the legal requirement on face masks in public spaces in England comes to an end.
From today, the decision to wear a mask is now one of “personal responsibility”, according to prime minister Boris Johnson.
And while consumers will not be legally obliged to wear a face mask in public settings, businesses should “encourage and recommend” visitors and staff to cover up on their premises, says current guidance from the UK government.
However, many still have their reservations on whether or not it is too soon to lift the mandate, with Covid-19 cases continuing to rise across the country. With advice and requirements varying across the rest of the UK, many are looking to brands to brands themselves to be clear on whether customers should wear masks while in their shops or using their services.
So what are brands saying so far?
Last week, several major British supermarkets announced they will continue to encourage both staff and shoppers to wear face coverings in-store. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrison’s, Aldi, Co-op and Iceland will all ask that customers continue to wear masks when shopping. The groups have also said they will keep other safety measures in place, including limits on the number of people in stores, protective screens at checkouts and regular cleaning.
Waterstones was one of the first high street retailers to announce it will continue to ask shoppers to wear masks in its bookstores. The bookseller said: “Given our enclosed browsing environment, we encourage our customers to wear face masks and observe social distancing, respecting the safety of staff and fellow book lovers.” John Lewis, as well as its grocery chain Waitrose, will also continue its mask-wearing advice. Likewise, M&S will be keeping its mask mandate. Boots has stated that it also encourages mask wearing, stressing the importance of complying with this guidance in its pharmacy areas, which are designated “healthcare settings”. However, while Primark has announced it will continue to advise mask-wearing, it will no longer have signage requesting customers to wear one. John Timpson, the founder of the keycutting and shoe repair chain, Timpson’s, has said the decision would be left to its customers.
Face coverings will continue to be required on all Transport for London services, with London mayor Sadiq Khan saying he is not prepared to put Tube, bus and other transport users at risk by relaxing the rules. A number of mayors across England have urged people on public transport to continue to wear face coverings. In Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham has said masks will still be required on the Metrolink tram network and at Manchester Airport.