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Our National Director comments on new coronavirus rules

13 Sep 2020

Our National Director comments on new coronavirus rules.

First Minister Mark Drakeford will today confirm changes to the rules on meeting people indoors to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in Wales.

It's a move that shows the return to normal shopping will not be soon, according to the Welsh Retail Consortium. And the retail trade union Usdaw welcomed the announcement and urged the public to comply and respect shop workers

The changes come as parts of Wales have seen an increase in cases of the virus linked to people meeting and socialising with others indoors but without social distancing. 

From Monday, face masks are to become compulsory in indoor public spaces like shops in Wales.

The head of the Welsh Retail Consortium [WRC], Sara Jones, lamented the "dearth of detail" in the announcement. While, Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said the need for effective communication will become more pressing with an increase in local lockdowns.

Ms Jones said: "Retailers supported the government in encouraging customers to voluntarily wear face coverings, and we will play our part in informing customers of their new duty. However, it will be the responsibility of customers to wear a face covering in shops. The enforcement of face coverings in store should not fall on retail workers but instead be a matter for the appropriate authorities."

This concern was echoed by Usdaw, with Nick Ireland, Usdaw Divisional Officer, said: "It needs to be made clear that shop workers are not responsible for enforcing the law. We are concerned that it may be another flashpoint for abuse of staff, which has doubled during the pandemic."

WRC's Ms Jones said that throughout the pandemic they had worked closely with the Welsh Government to ensure there is relevant guidance for the retail industry which reflects the reality of retail operations.

"However, the dearth of detail surrounding this announcement is challenging for retailers, and indeed customers, to have certainty over their obligations ahead of the introduction of this mandatory approach," Ms Jones added.

Ms Jones hopes there will be flexibility and understanding from customers and clarity from the authorities over the next few days.

"These new rules will hopefully reaffirm it is safe to come back to the high street and support Welsh shops," she added.

"Despite being open, retailers are still facing very challenging trading conditions. We need customers to come out and shop because every purchase helps to support stores and protect Welsh retail jobs.”

Mr Francis added: "Of course, we know that facemasks cannot be worn by everyone, and wearing them can pose significant challenges for certain groups, such as those who are deaf and reliant on lip reading.

"We also must be careful that this does not become a trigger for abuse against shop owners and their employees, even though the majority of customers have so far proved accepting of social distancing measures. Understanding and empathy should be important watchwords for all if this does happen.

“While some shoppers may still be nervous, small firms will be hoping that these new measures will inject new confidence into customers and get them back into town centres and high streets across Wales."

A new limit of six people will also be introduced on the number of people who can meet indoors at any one time. All six must belong to the same extended household group. 

The new restriction on meeting up will apply in pubs, cafes and restaurants, as well as private homes.

Robert Lloyd Griffiths, National Director of IoD Wales said: "As a nation, we have a collective responsibility to do whatever is necessary to protect each other and allow businesses to remain open. Any perceived inconvenience of wearing a face mask is a small price to pay to keep our economy going."

Until now there has been no legal limit on how many people could gather.

This week UK Government announced social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday (September 14).

In Wales four households will still be able to form an exclusive extended household as long as they are not breaking the six person limit.

The rule will not apply to children aged 11 and under, and up to 30 people from different households will still be able to meet outside.

These changes will not apply in Caerphilly County Borough Council area, where local restrictions have been introduced, including a suspension on extended households meeting indoors, to control a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and protect public health.

Mr Drakeford will confirm the changes at a briefing at 12.30pm this afternoon.

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