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Supermarket staff: 'We feel unsafe when customers don't wear masks'

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

"As soon as someone walks through the store without a mask or a lanyard showing they're exempt, it automatically makes me uneasy."

Arron's worked at a supermarket in Wrexham for seven years. He loves his job, his colleagues and his regular customers.

But he's looking for new work now because of shoppers who don't wear face masks.

"There are people who work and shop in supermarkets who still have a fear of catching Covid - me being one of them," he says. "It really does bother me."

He's told Radio 1 Newsbeat his colleagues feel the same.

'Be more thoughtful'

Arron's store's policy is not to order customers to wear masks.

"We can ask them if they'd like a mask, but when they just walk past us, often not socially distancing, it's rude and it puts everyone around them at risk," he says.

Legally, it's the job of police to enforce mask wearing but government guidelines say shops should "encourage" it. It's also up to individual shops if they want to refuse people entry without one.

  • Supermarkets 'should enforce mask-wearing'

"I'd love to be able to tell them to wear a mask or even refuse them entry to the store," he says.

"I wouldn't get angry over it. I'd just like them to be more thoughtful and think about others."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionSupermarkets ask customers to wear masks, but they don't force them to

The 24-year-old says he's seen customers wearing masks arguing with customers without them.

He also thinks it's "ridiculous" when people don't wear masks properly.

"If you're wearing a mask and it's under your nose, you're not doing yourself any favours or anyone else around you," he says.

Arron says the company he works for does a "great job" trying to keep staff safe though, providing things like face masks and having good social distancing rules.

image captionLiv doesn't mind if customers don't wear masks

Liv has a different view on customers not wearing masks. She works at a supermarket in Ipswich.

"I do think masks give people a sense of security and a little bit of extra protection but I wouldn't say it bothers me whether people wear them or not," she tells Newsbeat.

"I know the government says it's compulsory in some places but on the whole I do think it's a personal choice."

'Just mind your business'

The 28-year-old also thinks people who are exempt get a backlash if they're not wearing them.

"If you see someone not wearing a mask, just mind your business. As long as you're two metres away from them, I don't see how it affects you."

Like Arron's store, Liv's supermarket doesn't order people to wear masks. She says customers could have an underlying health condition they don't want to disclose.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets, says shops are meeting their responsibilities in encouraging mask wearing.

It says they're communicating the rules through things like signs, in-store announcements and other reminders.

But more general rules across the UK now say face masks are compulsory in shops.

'At the start we didn't need them'

Liv's store has brought in a marshal who "politely" asks people without masks if they'd like to wear one. She says she feels safe at work and says social distancing rules are being followed.

The advice from the World Health Organisation is that masks should be worn in public places. But for Liv, there's not enough evidence they work.

"I've worked through the whole pandemic in a supermarket. At the start we were told we didn't need to wear them, so it's just a bit far-fetched for me now."

There's one thing Liv and Arron can agree on though - and that's about noses.

"What annoys me the most is when people are wearing masks but don't wear them properly so it's not over their nose," she says.

"You're either going to wear it or you're not going to wear it."

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