Tuesday 12 January 2021 2:51 pm

UK supermarkets bring in security to enforce mask wearing as Covid cases rise

Supermarkets are ramping up Covid safety measures, with many of the major UK grocers planning to make masks mandatory and to only allow one person per household in store.

Tesco, Waitrose and Asda have joined Sainsbury’s and Morrisons in announcing that customers without masks will be turned away, unless they are exempt for medical reasons.

The retailers said extra security staff or Covid marshals will be in place to enforce the new rules.

The supermarket chains have also asked consumers to shop alone rather than in couples or groups. 

Meanwhile John Lewis, which owns Waitrose, announced it will suspend its click and collect service amid concerns it is encouraging unnecessary travel during lockdown. 

John Lewis Partnership executive director of operations Andrew Murphy said the company is “acutely aware that the country is at a critical point in the pandemic”.

“By insisting on the wearing of face coverings, over and above the social distancing measures we already have in place, we aim to make our shops even safer for customers,” he said.

A spokesperson for Asda, which was recently sold by US retail giant Walmart to the Issa brothers, said “should a customer refuse to wear a covering without a valid medical reason and be in any way challenging to our colleagues about doing so – our security colleagues will refuse their entry”.

Sainsbury’s was the first supermarket to announce that face coverings will become mandatory in its stores, followed closely by Morrisons yesterday.

The crackdown on mask wearing and social distancing in stores comes amid concerns that the latest nationwide lockdown is not bringing coronavirus cases down fast enough. 

Ministers have warned that England could face tougher lockdown restrictions after scientists said current measures do not go far enough.

Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister, yesterday said current restrictions may be scaled up as he admitted he was “worried” at the current picture. 

“We’ve got to review everything while we bring this new variant under control,” he told the BBC.

Under current lockdown rules, people must stay at home at all times other than for shopping for essential items, exercise, and if they cannot work from home. 

But Zahawi suggested ministers may scrap an exemption allowing two people from different households to meet up for exercise, as Covid rates continue to spike across the country.