// Tesco, John Lewis, Waitrose & Asda the latest to encourage customers & shop workers to wear masks after July 19
// Follows similar announcements made by Sainsbury’s and Waterstones yesterday
// The legal obligation to wear face masks will be dropped from July 19, but the government still encourages people to wear then
Tesco, John Lewis, Waitrose, Asda and Aldi have become the latest retailers to say they will encourage customers and shop workers to continue wearing masks in stores from July 19.
The news comes after Sainsbury’s and Waterstones yesterday said they would encourage all customers to wear a face covering in their stores if they can after “Freedom Day” comes into effect in England on Monday.
Earlier this week, the government published guidance for retailers which said it “expects and recommends” masks to be worn by workers and customers in crowded, enclosed spaces as the work from home order ends.
Tesco has said it would leave a raft of virus curbs, such as distancing measures, in place across its shops.
Last week, the supermarket started an internal review regarding its mask-wearing policies ahead of the latest easing of restrictions.
The Big 4 giant also said it would continue to have capacity limits in its stores, protective screens at checkouts, hand sanitiser stations and regular cleaning after speaking with customers and colleagues.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have focused on ensuring everyone can get the food they need in a safe environment,” a Tesco spokesperson said.
“Having listened to our customers and colleagues, we will continue to have safety measures in place in our stores; these include limiting the number of people in store at any time, protective screens at every checkout, hand sanitiser stations and regular cleaning.
“We’re asking our customers and colleagues to be on the safe side, and so from July 19 we’ll be encouraging our colleagues to wear face coverings whilst they work and encouraging our customers to do the same when they shop with us.”
Asda will have signage and announcements to encourage customers to follow Government guidance and will continue to provide face coverings in shops for people who wish to use them.
A spokesman said: “We encourage customers to be respectful to each other and to follow the Government guidance on face coverings when shopping in our stores after 19 July.”
Staff and customers at Waitrose and John Lewis have also been recommended to continue wearing masks but said it would ultimately be up to individual judgment.
A spokesman for the John Lewis Partnership, the parent company of both brands, said: “In line with government guidance, we will recommend that our customers and partners in England continue to wear a face covering, unless exempt, from July 19.
“The decision over whether to do so or not, when in our shops, will be for each individual to take, based on their own judgment.
“Across all of our stores we will be retaining perspex screens and hand sanitising stations.
“We will also maintain all of the hand hygiene and store cleaning disciplines which have served us well since the start of the pandemic.”
The retail group added that it will continue to follow legislation in Scotland and Wales which requires customers and employees to wear masks, unless exempt.
Aldi also confirmed its position on masks in its stores in the wake of the guidance from the government.
An Aldi spokesperson said: “From Monday July 19, we’ll continue to encourage customers and colleagues to wear face coverings when they’re in store. Other measures like hand sanitiser and screens will also stay in place.
“Face masks are still required for customers and colleagues in our Welsh and Scottish stores, in line with the latest guidance.”
Waterstones was one of the first major retailers to state a firm policy on mask wearing.
In a tweet, the books retailer said: “Following the lift of restrictions on 19 July across England, we will observe new government guidance.
“Given our enclosed browsing environment, we encourage our customers to wear face masks and observe social distancing, respecting the safety of staff and fellow book lovers.”
As with other retailers, Waterstones also confirmed that other safety precautions – such as staff wearing masks and safety screens – will remain in place.
However, managing director James Daunt told BBC News that while the face covering policy will be communicated by signs, staff would not enforce it.
Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s said that while wearing a face covering would ultimately be down to personal choice rather than an obligation, its guidance reflected the views of customers and it was asking “everyone to be considerate”.
Sainsbury’s added that new signs and tannoy messages “will encourage customers to continue to wear a face covering, if they can”.
Staff will also encouraged to wear one, unless they are behind a screen.
Similar to rival Tesco, Sainsbury’s said hand sanitiser stations would also remain in place and it would also continue cleaning trollies and baskets, as well as overnight deep cleaning.
“Our colleagues’ safety is vital and many of our colleagues would feel more comfortable if those who can wear face coverings continue to wear them,” Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts said.
“We’ve listened closely to our customers too and they are telling us the same.
“We’re asking everyone to be considerate and, while we understand wearing a face covering will now be a personal choice, we want to ensure we best support and protect each other in the weeks and months ahead.”
with PA Wires