To curb the spread of the emerging Omicron coronavirus variant, face coverings have become mandatory again in UK retail and public transport settings.
This includes shops, banks, post offices and hairdressers – however, Health Secretary Sajid Javid stated that if the new strain proves to be “no more dangerous than the Delta variant” then measures will be promptly removed.
In this week’s blog, we’re exploring the measures put in place by the government and how they will help prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.
Face coverings have not been compulsory in England since 19 July, but have remained mandatory in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. With most customers and staff still wearing face coverings, mandatory masking shouldn’t be an extreme departure from the current situation. Retailers have been communicating the new rules on face coverings in England through in-store signage and other digital channels.
Leisure and Hospitality
Mask mandates do not apply to other indoor venues such as gyms, theatres or cinemas. Despite this, mask wearing in crowded settings and for activities with close contact continues to be encouraged.
Prior to July’s “Freedom Day”, customers in England were required to wear masks when not seated – for example, when being shown to a table or going to the toilet. This time round, the rules regarding face coverings will not be extended to hospitality venues in England for practical reasons.
Reaction from the industry
Retail bosses have warned the government that shop workers have received abuse from customers disgruntled by the in-store COVID-19 restrictions over the past year. To help prevent shopping disputes, The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) chief executive, emphasised that it is the authorities’ job to enforce these new standards. The Unite trade union have also called for face covering to also become mandatory in pubs, cafés and restaurants.
At Targetfollow, we were pleased to see the government take swift and decisive action upon the discovery of the new Omicron variant. We believe the key to a successful high street recovery is consumer confidence. As the first cases of the Omicron strain arrive in Britain, we understand the anxiety and therefore believe mask wearing is important to protect customers and staff.