Fines for breaking the new rules on face masks will be handed out only as “a last resort”, Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said today (Friday 24 July).
And police officers will not be asked to patrol shops to enforce the new rules either.
From today, it has become compulsory to wear face masks in enclosed public spaces such as supermarkets, other shops and shopping centres, banks and takeaways.
The rules also apply to the indoor or enclosed parts of bus and railway stations and ports and airports.
And those breaking the rules face a £100 fine, reduced to £50 if paid with 14 days.
Disability charities have urged people to show understanding and compassion for those who are exempt on health or disability grounds because the reason for their exemption may not be visible.
Some shops have said that the rules will be the police to enforce – not their staff – while others have said that they will refuse to serve customers without a mask.
But shop staff themselves are among those who are exempt from the rules.
Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said: “As of today, we will all be expected to wear face masks when visiting stores.
“And, this week, we have heard from retailers and police chiefs asking the public to respect the safety of shop staff and the wider community by taking this approach.
“This weekend Sussex Police will not be routinely patrolling stores.
“But they will still be out and about in our communities and will continue, as they have done throughout this pandemic, to engage, explain and encourage the public to do the right thing, only using enforcement as a last resort.
“I understand that it may be a difficult transition for many people, some of whom may have valid medical reasons for not wearing face masks and we should all be mindful of this fact and not judge too quickly.
“None of us want to see those with exemptions being deterred from shopping for essentials.
“The more people who adhere to the guidelines, the better chance we have of minimising the spread of the virus and the less unnecessary burden we place upon our emergency services.
“Let’s not forget why we are doing this and please remember that, for every police officer who’s called to deal with a difficult customer refusing to wear a face mask, that’s one less officer available to arrest drug dealers, sex offenders and shoplifters.”
Among the companies to say that they do not expect their staff to challenge customers without face masks were Asda, Sainsbury’s and Costa Coffee.
Masks are not compulsory in indoor venues with other safety measures in place such as pubs and eat-in restaurants, hairdressers, gyms and cinemas.
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