Norfolk shoppers stick to masks at supermarkets despite rule change

Customers using Tesco Metro in Norwich wearing their masks.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

Customers using Tesco Metro in Norwich wearing their masks. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The vast majority of shoppers in Norfolk's supermarkets are sticking to face masks, despite coronavirus rules requiring them being dropped.

From July 19, it became no longer mandatory to wear face masks indoors, though many restaurants, businesses and supermarkets have released their own rules asking customers to do so.

Aldi, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco have all encouraged their customers to continue wearing masks, as cases across the country rise.

On Tuesday, shoppers in two supermarkets on the edge of Norwich - Sainsbury's in Costessey and Lidl in Sprowston - were heeding the message with the majority wearing masks.

Around lunchtime on July 20, around four adults were not wearing masks in Sainsbury's when the supermarket had about 70 customers.

And in Lidl, out of around 40 customers, four shoppers were not wearing masks.

Elliot Stewart, 49, outside Sainsbury's supermarket in Costessey.

Elliot Stewart, 49, outside Sainsbury's supermarket in Costessey. - Credit: Sophie Wyllie

Elliot Stewart, 49, a comedy DJ from Future Radio, who wore a mask during his shop, had spent the last few months ordering food online because of wanting to protect vulnerable loved ones.

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Mr Stewart, from New Costessey, said: "I had a quick dash here but I wasn't sure about it. When I go back home I will wash my clothes and have a shower. It is important to wear a mask because the cases are going up. I want to respect people's wishes for space. I think the restrictions should have been reduced gradually. It does feel foolish."

Beryl Bowman-Game, 76, from Hellesdon, outside Sainsbury's supermarket in Costessey.

Beryl Bowman-Game, 76, from Hellesdon, outside Sainsbury's supermarket in Costessey. - Credit: Sophie Wyllie


Beryl Bowman-Game, 76, from Hellesdon, was continuing to wear a face shield.

She said: "Eventually we have to take a chance but at the moment we have to exercise a bit of caution. It is freedom of choice and the majority of people are wearing a mask."

Elsewhere, 57 out of 60 people were wearing a mask in Tesco's on London Road in Downham Market at around lunchtime.

There did not appear to be much of a difference from the scenes we've become accustomed to over the past year, with the vast majority of shoppers in the supermarket opting to wear a face covering.

Customers using Tesco Metro in Norwich wearing their masks.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

Customers using Tesco Metro in Norwich wearing their masks. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Shoppers Ben and Tracy Martin said they will continue wearing it for the foreseeable future even though they have been double jabbed.

They added: "The virus is still about. It's a habit we have got used to over the last couple of months. It doesn't feel right not wearing it."

John, 27, who did not wish to give his surname, was on holiday from London and chose not to wear a mask following Freedom Day.

He said: "All the rules have been really confusing and I think a lot of people have disregarded all rules, and that it has been left up to people to make the decisions.

"I think it is people's choice really if people should wear it or not. They have made it so confusing after so many lockdowns and so much time has been lost. I'm lucky as I'm young."

Customers using Tesco Metro in Norwich wearing their masks.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

Customers using Tesco Metro in Norwich wearing their masks. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Shirley Cordner, 65, who wore a mask, said: "I think people seem to be doing it and I still am as I'm vulnerable. But by the end of the week that may change. I think when people stop wearing it out I will. I'm not sure at the moment."

In Caister, the Tesco was busy and all but a handful of people there were wearing face masks and social distancing, with the supermarket still operating a one-way system where possible.

At around midday, only three people - all in an older age group - were not wearing masks, though one person without a mask was displaying their exemption badge.

A cashier said it was heartening to see everyone taking a cautious approach, and even though there was no legal requirement to wear masks they still felt the need to protect themselves and others.

Just down the road in Great Yarmouth's Aldi, there were 11 customers wearing masks and 12 who were not, including one wearing a mask exemption lanyard.

Customers using Tesco Metro in Norwich wearing their masks.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

Customers using Tesco Metro in Norwich wearing their masks. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Every staff member was wearing a mask and the usual Aldi one way system was in place and there was a facility for cleaning hands and wiping down trollies.

At Asda, there were more people wearing masks. Five shoppers were spotted without masks, two of which were elderly.

What are the rules? 

From July 19, face masks are no longer be legally required, though they are encouraged in public transport and indoor areas with lots of people.

The one-metre social distancing rule has also been scrapped, while legal restrictions on numbers meeting indoors and outdoors have been removed.

Nightclubs and other businesses which had still not been permitted to reopen now have, though the prime minister has since said that nightclubs and other venues with large crowds must require vaccine passports from September.

Other remaining rules - including table service at bars and restaurants and work from home guidance - have been scrapped.

In September, the government will review the impact of easing restrictions.

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