Police on the Isle of Wight will only intervene as a last resort to enforce the law over wearing face coverings in shops when new rules come into force from today.
Police superintendent for the Isle of Wight, Sarah Jackson, told the IW Council health and wellbeing board the police had seen the population largely stick to the regulations but said it would be a joint effort to ensure people wear their masks.
She said: “We very much need, and expect, retailers to take responsibility for their staff and customers and be really clear about their requirements and manage their own premises.
“We will adopt the same approach as we have to all the regulations which is where if we are asked to we will talk to that person and explain to them why they need to wear a face covering.
“Ultimately, if needs be we will move to enforcement but only as a last resort.”
Health bosses told the board it will be ‘vital’ to wear face coverings and take other precautions to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Members of the board and other officials are trying to spread the message ‘the Island has got it covered’ as a way of asking residents to protect not only themselves but others as well.
Director of public health for the Island, Simon Bryant, said social distancing really needed to be promoted and people needed to be okay with having the ‘difficult conversation’ about getting people to move away from you if needed.
He said: “It is not about being protected from someone else, it is about you protecting other people.
“Social distancing is the key for us to stay apart. We need to remind people all the time that we need to wear a face covering and not forget.”
Michele Legg, chair of the Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group, said the British Medical Association was advising GPs not to write exemption letters for people wearing face masks because of the difficult situation a GP would be put in, legally, if a person were to catch and spread the virus after being given an exemption letter.
She said: “Social distancing, hand washing and face coverings are absolutely vital to keep this virus at bay and informing people it is still out there, in the community.”
Cllr Clare Mosdell, IW Council cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said: “I have seen on social media more of a message from people who don’t want to wear a mask.
“If you are asymptomatic and if you have a face mask on, you are protecting the person next to you because you are not giving it to everyone else.
“I think we will be amazed from tomorrow how many people will wear a face covering.
“It is not a sheep instinct but you want to do what is right for your community and most people don’t want to stand out and be the one who is not wearing one.
“I know I feel happier walking along a busy street with my face covering on — it is a bit like second nature now. You just get out the car and put one on, it is not that hard.”