Monday is a big day for England. After more than a year of living under rules we once thought unimaginable, lifting the restrictions on socializing puts us all in uncharted territory in this pandemic: when COVID-19 government security measures go by personal choice. It has led to a lot of heated discussions – will you keep wearing one? I don’t think anyone likes to wear a mask and we would all like life to go back to normal.
We know that our decision to encourage our customers to continue to wear face coverings in our stores, if they can, will not please everyone. But we are convinced that this is the right thing to do. Our colleagues have made extraordinary efforts to continue feeding the nation during the worst days of the pandemic. They are our heroes. We owe it to them to make sure they feel safe at work.
Since the government announced it would be dropping the obligation to wear face coverings, we’ve spent a lot of time talking and listening to our colleagues about what would make them feel safest; not only from the virus, but also from the minority of customers who sadly believe that abuse and violence are an acceptable way to respond to pandemic security measures. We want no doubt about our position. That’s why we maintain the safety measures that our colleagues care about most: not only do we ask our customers to continue to wear face coverings, if they can, but also keep screens between customers and colleagues at the checkout, clean our stores thoroughly every night and trolleys and baskets to be disinfected between uses.
It’s not just our colleagues. We have also listened to our customers. Most want the same thing: to take measures so that they can feel as safe as possible in our stores. Many are concerned about the easing of restrictions and the majority would like us to continue to encourage everyone to wear face coverings, if we can. During the pandemic, many of our customers – especially older and vulnerable people – felt safest when shopping online. They have only just returned to the shops and are understandably nervous. We want to help them feel comfortable when they are out and about.
We recognize that encouraging people to wear a face covering when you can is not welcomed by some. As a country, we are coming from a period of highly restricted freedoms – the kind of freedoms we normally take for granted. I don’t really like wearing a face mask, but I will continue to wear one whenever I am in a store or other crowded places. I will do this in support of all the store employees who have done so much for us during this pandemic. And I do it for our customers, many of whom are still coming to grips with how to stay safe in the outside world. It’s reassuring to see many other retailers committed to supporting continued wearing of face coverings in stores and other enclosed spaces – meaning there will be more and more places where people feel safe to work and shop.
Wearing face coverings is a personal decision, but we hope our customers can support the idea of continuing to shop safely for the benefit of everyone in our stores. Yes, masks may be a little annoying, but we think they come at a small cost to keeping our communities safe as we all navigate what will hopefully be the final stages of this pandemic.