UK supermarkets need police help to enforce Covid rules, says BRC

British supermarkets have said they will require help from the police if the government wishes to increase enforcement of lockdown rules such as wearing masks and social distancing to stem increasing numbers of coronavirus infections.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said on Monday it was “essential [that] police support the work being done by retailers” to avoid confrontations between abusive customers and shop workers.

Supermarkets have had measures in place since March to try to stop the spread of the virus, including mandatory face masks for everyone barring medical exemptions and social distancing. Some stores are also limiting the number of customers who enter.

However, increasing enforcement of the rules in supermarkets was one of the options being considered amid rapid increases in the number of people in hospital with Covid-19, according to government sources cited by the Telegraph. More than 6,300 people died after testing positive for Covid-19, according to government data covering the seven days up to 10 January.

Supermarkets, which are classed as essential retailers, stress that they are following government rules. The BRC, which represents most of the UK’s largest food retailers including Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, said data from the government’s scientific advisers showed that retail was safe, and added that its members have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on safety measures such as installing perspex screens and additional cleaning.

Andrew Opie, the BRC’s director of food and sustainability, said: “Supermarkets continue to follow all safety guidance and customers should be reassured that supermarkets are Covid-secure and safe to visit during lockdown and beyond. Customers should play their part too by following in-store signage and being considerate to staff and fellow shoppers.

“While enforcement of face coverings is the responsibility of the police, retailers continue to do what they can to encourage their use throughout stores. 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.”

Supermarket industry sources said there was little more that retailers could do to increase enforcement without police help.

“If they’re going to make it law their officers need to be in our stores making it law,” said one person at a large retailer.

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