Supermarket bosses set to meet with government over mask wearing

Supermarket bosses are set to meet with government in ‘coming days’ to call for the end of mandatory mask wearing and social distancing in stores as country eases out of lockdown

  • Supermarket and chain store bosses are in ‘crunch talks’ with the government
  • They are calling for scrapping of masks in stores and one metre social distancing
  • Retail representatives believe these measures reduce footfal in their stores 
  • Discussions are organised ‘in the coming days’, claims trade journal The Grocer

Britain’s supermarket and chain store bosses are due to hold ‘crunch talks’ with the government to ditch mask wearing in stores, industry sources claim.

The retail giants have also pushed to have the one metre-plus social distancing rule scrapped as it reduces the number of shoppers able to enter stores at any one time. 

Discussions have been organised ‘in the coming days’ between representatives of the nation’s biggest supermarket chains and government officials, according to trade journal The Grocer.

While supermarkets do not expect an immediate scrapping of Covid regulations they hope to get a roadmap of how and when these measures could be scrapped admitting it would all depend on ‘the science’.

Supermarkets are hosting ‘crunch talks with government officials to ditch mask wearing inside shops and food stores, according to industry experts The Grocer reports

The retail giants have also pushed to have the one metre-plus social distancing rule scrapped as it reduces the number of shoppers able to enter stores at any one time. Pictured: A shopper wearing a mask in an East London supermarket

One industry source told The Grocer: ‘The meeting will discuss the way forward with moving away from social distancing, including looking at what happens with the one metre-plus rule.

‘The talks with the government are upcoming and will involve the operations bosses of both food and non-food retailers.’

Recent figures released by the British Retail Consortium show footfall in stores has fallen by up to 40 per cent since the start of the pandemic at a cost said to be ‘in the billions’.

The Grocer’s source added: ‘This is by no means a straightforward decision for stores. 

‘They are very conscious that many customers will be wary about the removal of social distancing measures and have got used to having extra space.

‘It could also become quite a competitive issue. Customers may prefer to shop in places where they believe the best safety measure are still in place.’

Morrisons CEO, David Potts, told The Grocer some measures such as Perspex screens were likely to remain in case of a third wave.

He said: ‘The one thing retailers don’t want is to roll back measures like screens and then to have to bring them back if there’s another wave. 

Supermarket bosses claim social distancing measures are limiting the number of customers allowed in store at any one time. Pictured: A Waitrose queue in Frimley, south west of London

Over the course of Covid restrctions this has often led to long queues outside supermarkets. Pictured: Shoppers queue using social distancing outside an Asda supermarket in Gateshead, north-east England 

Ministers ‘are split’ over whether to keep lockdown beyond June 21 to protect ‘idiot’ vaccine refuseniks – amid fears local Tiers will have to return in England with Scotland ALREADY targeting areas 

Ministers are at loggerheads over whether to extend lockdown beyond June 21 to protect ‘idiot’ vaccine refuseniks from the Indian variant.

Tensions are rising within government as the more transmissible strain threatens to derail the roadmap, which should see all legal restrictions lifted from next month.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng insisted this morning he is still ‘confident’ and ‘fully expects’ the schedule to be kept despite anxiety about surging cases in ‘hotspots’.

However, he warned against ‘stigmatising’ those who do not want to get jabs. Summing up the dilemma over June 21 one minister told Politico: ‘The risk is that a small number of idiots ruin it for everyone else.’

Meanwhile, there is swirling speculation that local curbs might needed in England to keep the wider easing on track – with Scotland already targeting restrictions on specific areas. 

‘It is not just a case of slotting them back in, it would be a huge cost.’ 

Figures from last wee  show footfall in UK retail destinations rose by +0.5% last week, ahead of the reopening of indoor hospitality today.

The figure is set to rise this week amid futher easing of Covid restrictions. 

From today, people are allowed to enjoy a drink with friends inside pubs, bars and restaurants, while holidays also became legal again. 

Theatres, cinemas and museums can also open their doors again this morning.

Today’s easing of Covid curbs is the biggest since the latest lockdown began in January.

Hotels and B&Bs can reopen to take advantage of the lifting of the ban on overnight stays while cinemas, museums and soft play centres can reopen their doors. The £5,000 fines for taking a foreign holiday will be scrapped.

Economists believe that families could splash out more than £800million this week as they celebrate the chance to meet loved ones again for the first time in months.

But the one-metre (3ft) rule remains in place in public settings such as pubs, shops and restaurants. The government says people should also wear a face mask when walking around these places. 

But it comes amid warning from top scientists over the spread of the Indian varient of the virus. 

The Prime Minister urged families to adopt a ‘heavy dose of caution’ and a minister encouraged revellers to avoid ‘excessive drinking’ amid an eight per cent rise in infections in a week and concerns the total scrapping of restrictions on June 21 is under threat.

Despite the warnings, the retail sector hopes to see a major uplift in the number of shoppers after a year of tough restrictions on the High Street.  

Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard said:  ‘With indoor hospitality opening today the return of shoppers to high streets couldn’t come at a better time, suggesting we will see a further uplift in footfall as the opportunity to eat and drink inside protected from the elements will give shoppers an incentive to visit high streets more frequently and dwell longer.’

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