'There needs to be a supporting public information campaign'

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th July 2020

As of today, in England, wearing masks in certain enclosed public spaces is mandatory.

People will be asked to wear a mask or any material covering their mouth and nose - not only on public transport, as has been the case for three months - but also in indoor transport hubs, all shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and banks.

Some exemptions, including restaurants with table service, bars, and pubs; entertainment venues; visitor attractions; or exercise and sports venues.

But public confidence in government communications is low, as the message on whether or not wearing masks is necessary has changed on multiple occasions since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

"The guidance and the detail did come out incredibly late in the day," Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality told the BBC's Newsnight, adding that members have been advised on what measures to take with the publication of this summary.

"It's really helpful that we did have clarity earlier today on which businesses are exempt, but there is still a little bit of confusion for people to navigate." 

The head of the trade body said the new rules should be supplemented with "a supporting public information campaign", "to explain where people are expected to wear masks and where they're not - and also why they should be wearing them." 

No enforcement

With the news that businesses are under no constraint to enforce the new rules - and that police wouldn't do so routinely, despite the announcement that people disregarding them were liable to receive a £100 fine, Kate added: "I don't think our staff are really equipped and supported to go and have those confrontations." 

"All we are able to do as hospitality businesses, when we're there providing a warm and safe welcome, all we can do is to encourage customers to take responsibility and to comply with the regulations. 

"We can't force them. We have to encourage the public to take responsibility for their actions."

And indeed, the industry echoed Kate's fears, pondering how it would be possible to require customers to wear masks. 


Confusing rules 

With the example of Scotland - where masks have been mandatory in enclosed spaces for a fortnight - showing that a lack of enforcement has seen a reduction in compliance, Kate explained that there might be more confusion in England, where different rules apply in takeaways and eat-in venues. 

She said: "The key is, if we're going to build confidence, if we're going to encourage people who are not coming back out of their house, who are not returning to shops and hospitality venues to work, we need to have very clear unambiguous messages to build that confidence." 

Meanwhile, as news broadcasters have been quick to share information on the new rules and how to wear a mask safely, people have reacted in a variety of ways - with some calling out the government for implementing new rules too late, and others announcing their refusal to comply.

‘Are new mask rules about the science or the economy?’

Face coverings are now compulsory for customers in shops in England. But what is behind the rules and how will they be policed? BBC Newsnight speaks to Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen and UK Hospitality boss Kate Nicholls. bbc.in/30E45iU

Posted by BBC News on Thursday, July 23, 2020

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th July 2020

'There needs to be a supporting public information campaign'