Face coverings in shops: are people sticking to the rules?

From today people visiting shops, including takeaways are required by law to wear a face covering but some high street chains said they will not penalise customers who fail to do so.

Police can hand out £100 fines to people in shops, shopping centres, banks, takeaway outlets, post offices, sandwich shops and supermarkets who flout the rules, but the College of Policing has said officers “should only be required as a last resort”.

It states that staff in premises where face coverings are required are encouraged to “take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law” and can refuse entry to people who do not have a valid exemption under the rules.

Public Health England have put out a warning that parents should not buy face masks for children under three, as they could cause suffocation.

Earlier today (24 June), we went out in Wellington, Shropshire, to see what residents made of the new face covering rules.

Dr Jenny Lunt, Lecturer in Health Psychology, and Dr Fiona Holland, Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Behaviour Change at the University of Derby, have written some tips about how to encourage strangers to wear a face covering.

They say for the conversation, you want to avoid being perceived as confrontational and risk receiving an aggressive response due to the individual feeling disrespected.

They also say to avoid making any assumptions as the other person may have legitimate reasons for not wearing a mask (e.g. medical advice, for mental health reasons or because they need to be lip read). 

They suggest that the conversation could proceed along the following lines, captured by the acronym ‘BASCCAT”:

  • Breath & Body: As preparation, take a breath to maintain calmness. Adopt a non-aggressive pose (stand at an angle, keep arms down, avoid finger pointing or having your arms crossed).

  • Attitude: Adopt a calm non-judgmental mindset. Be aware that there may be good reasons for not wearing a mask. 

  • State the obvious: Express it as a factual observation to help keep the interaction non-confrontational. Deliver this is a neutral tone. For example: “I see that you are not wearing a mask”.

  • Check: Check if there is a legitimate reason by asking “have you been advised not to wear a mask?” Keep it a closed question to avoid triggering debate. If the answer is yes, acknowledge this, for example: “OK, in that case I’m sorry to trouble you.

  • Concern: If a legitimate reason is not apparent, firstly convey respect, e.g. “I know we must all make our own decisions”, and then state why you have approached them (try to use AND rather than BUT as your linking word): “AND I’m concerned about my family/my health/ the health of others in this shop

  • Ask: Direct mask-wearing behaviour by asking: “Do you think you could put one on?’. [If they indicate that they don’t have one, advise where one can be obtained, e.g. at shop entrance, online, in chemists etc. depending on which applies in that context].

  • Thank them if they do as requested. Close the interactionwith appreciation.

    If they do not, then just move away to protect yourself.

A shopper wearing a face mask leaves the High Cross shopping centre in Leicester as non-essential shops in the city reopen Credit: PA images