Fines a ‘last resort’ for police as face masks become mandatory in shops

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face masks shops
Customers must wear face masks in shops from today

ENFORCEMENT will be a last resort, Dorset Police has said as the wearing of face coverings in all shops and retail premises becomes mandatory from today (Friday).

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People are being urged to be socially responsible amid the changes in the government’s legislation aimed at helping to further prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The new measure now sees all stores able to prevent entry to anyone failing to wear a face covering, with police now empowered to issue a £100 fixed penalty to flouters.

As has been the case on public transport – introduced on 15th June – children aged under 11 are exempt. Those with disabilities or certain health conditions, such as respiratory or cognitive impairments, also do not have to comply.

Despite its new powers from the government, Dorset Police said it would be adopting an ‘educate, engage and encourage’ approach, with enforcement a final option.

Assistant Chief Constable Sam de Reya said: “As lockdown measures ease there is a need for us all to be socially responsible. Everyone must play their part in reducing Covid risk and protecting each other as much as possible.

“Dorset Police will be adopting an approach similar to that already seen with face coverings being mandatory for those travelling on public transport.

“We will be engaging and educating the public and only using enforcement as a final option. I prefer to see engagement with the public rather than Dorset Police officers having to give a £100 fixed penalty notice to any member of the public for refusing to comply with the legislation.”

She added: “My hope is that everyone will be socially responsible and play their part in keeping our residents and many tourists in our region safe.”

As well as shops, supermarkets and transport hubs, it is now compulsory to wear a face covering when buying food and drink to take away from cafes and shops.

Customers in premises where seating is available to consume food bought on site are allowed to remove their face coverings to eat and drink.

Dorset Police has spoken to businesses and retailers over the past week to ensure the region’s reopening economy is supported amid an increasing number of visitors.

ACC de Reya continued: “We must support our economy as it looks to restart and come together as communities at a critically important time for the tourist industry.

“But that needs to be done safely. Many of our businesses, particularly those in retail and hospitality, have taken extraordinary measures to increase safety to the public – wearing a face covering is the next step to reducing risk.

“Covid has not gone away and the responsibility for wearing a face covering sits with an individual.”

Under the current government legislation, face coverings are not mandatory in venues such as hairdressers and close-contact services, eat-in restaurants, cafes and pubs.

Entertainment venues, including cinemas, concert halls and theatres, are also exempt, as well as visitor attractions such as heritage sites or museums.

Masks are not mandatory in gyms and leisure centres, dentists or opticians, but NHS guidance states they should be worn in hospitals.

The A&T has contacted Hampshire police for details of its approach to the new legislation, but a response has not yet been received.

However, details from the government state that forces in general have been focusing on engaging, explaining and encouraging, with enforcement used as “a last resort”.

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