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Face covering legislation needs to be 'tightened and explained further'

  (The Filco Supermarket store in Llantwit Major)

The legislation and guidance around the wearing of face coverings in shops in Wales needs to be "tightened and explained further" according to the boss of one supermarket chain in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Director of Filco Supermarkets, Matthew Hunt, told Bro Radio's Vale This Week Programme that he was considering introducing tougher rules into his stores across South Wales, but wanted clearer guidance from the Welsh Government.

It comes after supermarket chains Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose all announced they would challenge people who refuse to wear a face mask, with some saying they will deny entry to anyone without a mask, unless they are medically exempt.

Under the current coronavirus rules, people must wear face coverings in shops across Wales, and supermarkets are expected to have social distancing and strict hygiene measures in place.

Asked if Filco Stores would be taking tougher action, Matthew Hunt said, "It's something we're certainly mindful of, wearing a mask offers protection to colleagues and other customers, it is high on our priority list to try and enforce that.

"But there is a huge grey area amongst this and that's the exemption clause and that is proving quite difficult to navigate

"If you're minded to do so, you could use that as an excuse for not wearing a mask, and that is exceptionally difficult for us to deal with at store level because there's no means of checking or understanding what reason that person presents for not wearing a mask."

According to the Welsh Government guidance, people who have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering include those:

  • Who are not able to put on or wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, or because of a condition or impairment
  • Who are accompanying somebody who relies on lip reading where they need to communicate and you cannot access a clear face covering
  • Who are escaping from a threat or danger and don’t have a face covering
(A tweet from The Welsh Government on the rules for shoppers)

Filco Supermarkets has nine stores across South Wales, including two in the Vale of Glamorgan - in Cowbridge and Llantwit Major.

The Welsh Government say Ministers have been in talks with retailers on how to improve safety and return to the strict observance of social distancing from the first lockdown, although no new guidance has been issued.

Flower

But, the boss of the Filco chain said he was not part of any discussion with Welsh Government officials, and pointed out he wants to see any new or existing guidance made clearer to customers and businesses.

"The legislation needs to be tightened and explained further to try and cut out some of the loopholes.

"We haven't had any direct communication with the Welsh Government at all, when they talk of discussions, they're really referring to the big supermarkets who are all based in England.

"The First Minister's weekly press conference is our first point of contact for us in terms of understanding new developments, and that is quite difficult."

The Welsh Government also say it is up to each store to enforce the rules in place, this is something that has led to some Filco Supermarket staff being abused.

"There has been a couple of nasty incidents, but thankfully they are minimal compared to some of the national supermarkets."

"We're very lucky that on the whole we have a local, loyal, customer base, the staff in our stores know our customer base very well and have a better relationship with them than some of the bigger stores.

Mr Hunt also reminded people of the click and collect and delivery options that Filco offer.

"We've been offering a delivery service throughout, customers can go on to the Snappy Shopper app or website, and that is available at Cowbridge and Llantwit Major stores, you can see some of the options on our website too."

You can listen back to the full interview with Matthew Hunt on this week's Vale This Week programme - hosted by Matthew Harris and Dan Moffat - by going to https://broradio.fm/on-air/the-vale-this-week/

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