UK retail staff face ‘violence and abuse’ while enforcing Covid-19 rules amid fears virus spreading in supermarkets

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British retailers have said shop workers are being abused when they encourage people to wear face masks in-store, and that it is the police’s job to make people follow health measures designed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

One of the UK’s largest trade associations, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents 170 major retailers, has spoken out about the enforcement of the rules as new Covid-19 infections remain high in the country.

“While enforcement of face coverings is the responsibility of the police, retailers continue to do what they can to encourage their use throughout stores,” Andrew Opie, the BRC’s director of food and sustainability, told Reuters on Monday.

“Sadly, this has led to a sharp rise in incidents of violence and abuse against shop workers, which is why it is essential police support the work being done by retailers.”

It comes after UK Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the government is concerned that supermarket shoppers are flouting guidelines by not practicing social distancing and entering stores when they are too busy.

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“We are concerned that, for example, in supermarkets we need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way rule in supermarkets,” he told Sky News.

He also stressed that the government did not want to toughen England’s current national lockdown, and advised people to “behave as if they have got the virus.”

According to a report from The Times, the government is poised to legally require supermarkets to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing, unless levels of compliance improve.

In November, a Public Health England study using Covid-19 data found that supermarkets were the most common places people visited in the days before they tested positive for the virus.

On Sunday, the UK reported a further 54,940 new cases of the virus, as well as a further 563 fatalities within 28 days of positive tests, taking the total death toll to 81,431.

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