SHOPPERS are today being urged to wear face coverings as they enter retail outlets across north and west Wiltshire.

The Shires shopping centre and Castle Place market mall in Trowbridge have both advised that people will be advised to cover-up as soon as they open this morning.

The new ruling also affects major supermarket chains such as Aldi, Budgens, Co-op, Lidl, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, as well as convenience stores across the region.

The news has been welcomed by some shoppers, particularly those who are elderly, vulnerable and deemed to be medically at ‘high risk’ of contracting the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Bernard Newman, 72, from Westwood, near Bradford on Avon, said: “I think it’s a good thing and should have been introduced a lot sooner.”

The pensioner and his wife Debbie, said they had always worn their face coverings while out shopping all the way through the lockdown imposed in March.

“I suppose it has to be done as people understand we need to do it and there is a risk of contracting this dreadful virus. I think it’s right that we should wear face masks in places such as shops and buses.”

David and Anthea Gilbert, from Duke Street in Trowbridge, agreed. Mr Gilbert, 71, said: “My wife is at high risk and I never go out without wearing a mask.

“Anthea is an ex-nurse and she feels that it should be compulsory. You see people on television in crowds and hardly any of them are wearing masks. It should be law but how do you control it in shops?”

Tegan Rowlands, 16, from Mortimer Street, Trowbridge, said: “I think there are some drawbacks but the majority of people will wear face masks. It’s a preventative measure. If people don’t wear them, they should not be allowed to go into the shops.”

Shops and supermarkets across England will be 'expected to encourage compliance' with the new law and customers who do not comply could be fined up to £100.

The new law brings the UK into line with other European countries where the wearing of face coverings in shops is already mandatory.

Face coverings have been compulsory on public transport in England since July 15.

Both The Shires shopping centre and Castle Place say shoppers will be advised to put on face masks before they set foot inside their shopping malls.

Although wearing of face coverings is going to be difficult to police, they hope people will comply and respect those who are wearing maks.

Sarah Moore, The Shires’ centre manager, said: “We would like them to wear face coverings. We consider ourselves to, basically, be just a large shop and it is about protecting the retailers.

“We have prominent signage going up at all three entrances asking people to wear masks, and we are going to encourage people the best we can.

“Poundland have plenty of masks for sale if anybody forgets to bring one. For the people who do wear masks, it is only fair and just that others do it too.”

Mrs Moore hopes people will also follow the signs for social distancing on the floor of The Shires so that they walk one way on one side and back on the other. There will be regular PA announcements on The Shires system about the new ruling.

Julie Davis, centre manager at Castle Place shopping centre, said shoppers would be advised to put on their face coverings before entering the shopping mall and market hall.

She said: “There will be signage at the front and at all the entrances saying masks should be worn because it is a confined space and I believe The Shires are doing the same.”

Both shopping centres have shops where face coverings can be bought if shoppers do not have one. 

Wiltshire Police Federation chairman Mark Andrews called on the public to adhere to the new rules and also for shopkeepers and supermarkets to ensure their customers wear their masks.

He said the police have limited resources “and the last thing we need is to use these slim numbers to enforce this new law.”

Mr Andrews said: “The vast majority of Wiltshire’s public have complied with the many lockdown rules brought in by the Government and I thank them for this as it has made our job a lot easier. 

“I am hoping now face coverings have become mandatory in retail outlets we will continue to see the same level of compliance across our communities.

“To assist us I would ask our shops for their support by making the rules of entry crystal clear; if you are not wearing a face covering then you are not coming in.”

He added: “Wiltshire Police officers will be there to help stores if needed – but only as a last resort as we simply do not have the resources. 

“We will continue to use the same approach we have done throughout the pandemic of trying to educate and encourage people to follow the rules before going down the enforcement route. 

“It is simple really no mask, no entry - fail to comply and receive a fine of £100.”

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, added: "As face coverings become a mandatory requirement in stores, police officers are yet again adapting to a new set of unprecedented laws and guidelines which they wouldn’t have even dreamed of before lockdown.

 “Not only is it going to be difficult to police, it is going to be impossible. We simply can't do it. Policing has been stretched like never before. There are not enough of us to make this work.”