As the UK government lifts mandatory masks in public settings on Monday, one supermarket chain says it will strongly encourage customers to keep them on.
Officials at Sainsbury’s say they will ask its shoppers to continue to put on face coverings as they shop at stores, providing an extra layer of protection for themselves, other consumers and staff members. Colleagues also will be encouraged to wear them unless they are in areas where screens have been set up.
“As we respond to the recent change in government guidance, we know that safety is still top of mind for many of our colleagues and customers,” says Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts. “Our colleagues’ safety is vital and many of our colleagues would feel more comfortable if those who can wear face coverings continue to wear them. We’ve listened closely to our customers too and they are telling us the same. We’re asking everyone to be considerate and, while we understand wearing a face covering will now be a personal choice, we want to ensure we best support and protect each other in the weeks and months ahead.”
The decision to allow citizens to remove masks in public places has sowed divide across the nation, much the same way it has in the United States, where masks have been lifted for some time. The spread of the Delta variant there, however, has prompted at least one major city, Los Angeles, to install mask mandates again in indoor spaces.
According to a report from the Associated Press, the UK has seen COVID-19 numbers skyrocket past levels not achieved since January, with more than 50,000 new positive cases. Despite the lifting of restrictions, the UK government says is still urging people to wear masks, especially in areas where there are large gatherings.
Would supermarkets qualify? Sainsbury’s believes so. Aside from the mask encouragement, they are keeping screens at customer checkouts in place until numbers decline. They also will continue to provide hand sanitizer stations and will perform regular cleanings of trolleys and baskets.
Currently, about two-thirds of adults have completed vaccine schedules in the UK, with 90% having received the first dose. Younger populations are still lagging behind and numbers have tailed off since vaccines became available. Those numbers are still far better than in the United States, which has remained largely open – with almost all states lifting mask mandates. It has just 49% of its population vaccinated and only 56% receiving the first dose.