As calls for tougher measures grow, senior officers have declined the government`s request for police to enforce Covid rules.
On Monday, Morrisons and Sainsbury announced that shoppers who refuse to wear face coverings without medical exemptions will be told to leave stores. Police will be conducted as pis aller if shoppers refuse to comply with requests to wear masks.
A government spokesperson said: “We are incredibly grateful for the work the police are doing to explain and enforce the current coronavirus restrictions.
“As they have throughout the pandemic, the police will support enforcement of the regulations and will attend retail settings as necessary to respond to reports of crime and public order offences.
“We are at a critical point in this pandemic and all of us need to be doing the right thing. People should only be leaving home if it is essential for them to do so and they must follow the rules when they do.”
However, multiple law enforcement sources said that they don`t have the capacity to patrol supermarkets, insisting that forces required more clarity about how the rules should be imposed.
Asked about enforcing rules in supermarkets, one senior police leader said “we won’t be doing that”, adding: “Do people really want the police telling you: ‘that’s not above your nose’? There are no extra officers. Everything else [crime] is still happening. Where is the greater risk: do you put two people in a supermarket not wearing masks before a woman suffering domestic violence?
“You need clearer, consistent messaging, not new rules and more enforcement.”
As the NHS faces its “most dangerous “ point, the government is considering imposing rules on the wearing of masks outdoors and banning household mixing during walking and exercises.
Trade unions also urged the government to encourage people to work from home as the use of public transport is now higher than during the first lockdown increasing risks of spreading the coronavirus even more.