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Face masks are mandatory in shopping centres, supermarkets, banks and takeaways from today

Shoppers and shop workers have been getting used to wearing face masks around the county today.

As new rules come in to force, our reporters have been speaking to people about the changes.

View of Whitefriars in Canterbury on the day face coverings became mandatory
View of Whitefriars in Canterbury on the day face coverings became mandatory

Owner of Esquires Coffee in Dartford Gurjit Rhandhawa said he was up last night still trying to figure out exactly what the rules are to be safe.

In coffee shops the guidelines state you don't have to wear face coverings if seated but if picking up a takeaway masks should be worn.

But Gurjit is confident his customers, the majority of which he says are older people, have been respecting the rules as he understands them this morning.

He said: "Just looking around seeing the customers coming in I can see pretty much everyone is trying to do what is right."

The coffee shop boss said he would be offering polite reminders to customers flouting the rules rather than seeking to eject any.

Owner of Esquires Coffee Gurjit Rhandhawa
Owner of Esquires Coffee Gurjit Rhandhawa

He added: "What we have created here is a safe environment, following the government guidance to ensure we are providing a safe place for people.

"We also want to make things as normal as possible so people don't feel that the procedures that we have taken are in their face.

"We want people to have a nice relaxing time and do what they did pre-covid."

And while most were happy to wear them - even if they were a little uncomfortable - one shopper refused.

Tom Parry, 26, from the town, was stopped on two occasions for not wearing a mask inside the Priory Shopping Centre this morning as he passed through on the way to the bank.

"First time he said do you have a mask, I said no," explained Tom, pointing out he does not understand it to be a legal requirement to refuse entry.

He added: "I have been working for months and months and I'm okay."

Tom Parry from Dartford
Tom Parry from Dartford

To stop something similar happening in their supermarket, people arriving at Morrisons in Folkestone in Cheriton Road shortly after 7.30am were greeted by a cheery member of staff at the entrance handing out masks.

When our masked reporter, Rhys Griffiths, asked if everyone had been happy to cover up on the first day of the new regulations, she smiled and simply said: "More or less."

He said: "Walking the aisles inside, there was not an uncovered face to be seen. But unfortunately a few individuals - staff and shopper alike - did seem to be struggling to ensure their masks were successfully covering both mouth and nose."

John Scanlon, the owner of Marlowe Florist in Canterbury says it will take a while for people to get used to it.

By 9.30am he had had two customers turn up without masks.

He said: "The first woman was very apologetic and we served her from outside. The second man I gave him one. Sales are few and far between at the moment so I'm not going to turn people away.

"I might have to stock up on masks for customers but we'll wait and see how it goes. People just need to get used to them."

One shopper in Canterbury who was wearing a mask was 73-year-old Ronald Stanley from Aylesham.

Like many people, he doesn't understand why it's taken so long to bring the rule in to force.

Mr Stanley, who was heading to Marks and Spencer said: "I can't see what people complaining about.It should have been brought in straight away. If it's like the flu they should have got everyone to wear a mask from the beginning. It would have been cured by now, I reckon.

Ronald Stanley from Aylesham out shopping in Canterbury today
Ronald Stanley from Aylesham out shopping in Canterbury today

"It's just gets a bit warn inside but it's worth it. I used to work down the pits in Snowden so I'm a bit more used to it."

In Whitstable, Sally Miller, owner of Anchors Aweigh Vinatge has had two customers who said they couldn't wear masks this morning for health reasons.

She said: "I'm not prepared to go into details with people but I will ask them to use the gel before they look around.

"People have generally been lovely."

Westwood Cross in Thanet was very quiet this morning, with all shoppers abiding to the new rules and wearing masks.

Many have them around their chins while walking around the outdoor shopping centre, pulling them up to cover their faces as they enter shops.

A member of staff at TK Maxx is handing out masks on the door for anyone who doesn't have one.

Shoppers in Westwood Cross on the day face masks became compulsory
Shoppers in Westwood Cross on the day face masks became compulsory

In Broadstairs high street there was a mix of people both with and without masks. Those not wearing one said they were not going into shops but heading to the seafront.

Shopkeepers in the town say they will be asking people to wear one. Malcolm Rowlett, owner of Antiquarian Antiques, says if a customer came in not wearing a mask he would ask if they could put one on.

"I have masks customers can use, and hand sanitizer or gloves, whatever people need really," he said.

"When someone walks in I put my mask straight on. This rule should have been brought in months ago."

Ethan Regelous, who works at Kit in Charlotte Street, says making people wear masks in shops is the right thing to do.

Malcolm Rowlett, owner of Antiquarian Antiques (39097155)
Malcolm Rowlett, owner of Antiquarian Antiques (39097155)

"In enclosed spaces it is safer to wear a mask," he said. "We're ordering some in which people will be able to buy for a pound.

"If someone comes in not wearing one I'll ask if they can put one on as it's the law.

"If they haven't got one today then I'll let them know they sell them at Londis over the road for a pound."

The owner of The Present Company says she has been wearing one ever since she re-opened.

"We should all have been wearing one the whole time, this should have come in earlier," she said.

Ethan Regelous, who works at Kit in Charlotte Street
Ethan Regelous, who works at Kit in Charlotte Street

"I don't know what I'd do though if someone came in not wearing one."

One shopper in Broadstairs said she had not been wearing a mask until today, but thinks it's the right thing to do.

"Some people have a problem with wearing one, but I can't see why if it keeps everyone safe," she said.

One of the first on the streets of Sheerness this morning was Lee Ewart who has taken to writing messages on his disposable paper mask. This morning's was "This is my happy face."

He said: "With a mask there is no way to tell if a person is happy or miserable. So I thought I'd make it easier for anyone I met."

Lee Ewart has written 'this is my happy face' on his mask before heading in to Sheerness
Lee Ewart has written 'this is my happy face' on his mask before heading in to Sheerness

Meryl and Jenny Ledrooke from Blue Town had brought a fresh supply from the RSPCA charity shop in the High Street.

Meryl said: “It’s a very good idea. We have even posted some to our cousins. It’s something you have to go along with although it can be a bit of a nuisance. But it’s protection.

“It’s good you can take them off in the road. That’s why we are avoiding going to shopping centres. It’s pretty awful on a five-hour train journey, though.”

Sean Scott, 60, was wearing a union flag mask. He said: “It’s a good idea. Besides, I couldn’t afford a £100 fine.”

Neighbours Sylvia Eldridge and Patricia Rogers, both 82, said: “It’s not too bad. We come from Minster on the bus so we are used to wearing them. We have a selection so we can colour coordinate them with our clothes.”

Sylvia Eldridge and Patricia Rogers
Sylvia Eldridge and Patricia Rogers

Karen Baxter from Queensway works in fashion shop Bon Marche and went one better. She said: “I’m into sequins and sparkles. It’s good although no one can see the colour of my lip stick I’m wearing.”

Kellie Isham, 45, and her mum Jennifer Hoy, 69, both opted for Matalan masks. Kellie said: “It’s a good idea especially now the number of coronavirus cases seems to be getting lower. It’s protection for everyone.”

Simon Allen, 52, was queuing for the Nationwide building society in his wheelchair. He said: “I have breathing difficulties but it’s got to be done.”

Sue Jones, 60, from Gillingham, who was in Rochester High Street this morning says the new rules could be difficult to enforce.

“I started wearing a mask last week to get used to the idea,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate to work all the way through and haven’t felt the need to wear one - I work for a security firm at an airport. Now we’ve got to wear the masks I feel quite comfortable.

“There will be some that try their luck. I think the police are stretched at the best of times - I know they’re saying shop owners can call the police but I think it will be difficult to enforce.

Steve Chandler in Rochester High Street
Steve Chandler in Rochester High Street

Steve Chandler, 63, from Rochesteragreed and said he had sympathy for staff.

“I feel sorry for the staff that have to enforce it because they will be put under uneccessary pressure,” he said. “How far can they go with refusing entry? I’m quite happy to wear a mask myself. At first it’s strange but after a while it will be as it always was.

“I think they needed to do it to push it home and get on top of it.”

Sally Peachey, 56, runs Johnstones tool merchants in where they have an over the counter service just inside the front door.

She said:“I think it should have been brought in earlier, but I’m not wearing a mask in here, although my sister is.

Sally Peachey, 56, runs Johnstones tool merchants in Rochester High Street
Sally Peachey, 56, runs Johnstones tool merchants in Rochester High Street

“We’ve been open all the way through and we’ve been careful with cleaning and everything else.

“Personally it makes me feel claustrophobic wearing one, but I wore one when I went to Asda earlier - I saw one person who wasn’t wearing one. I just don’t think it makes much sense bringing it in now.”

She said pubs and cafes seemed more likely environments for the virus to spread than a lot of shops, adding: “a few of our customers were saying bad it was in the cafes. There’s no social distancing at all. Maybe it would be better to get out priorities straight rather than getting people to wear masks.”

Under the regulations, which are enforceable by the police, people now need to wear a face covering in shopping centres, supermarkets, banks, post offices, takeaways and sandwich shops.

Face coverings are also a must in railway stations and airports, while some venues are exempt.

Shopping centres in Kent have said they will be "encouraging" shoppers to wear masks but some chains including Costa and Sainsbury's have said they won't enforce the rules.

Children under 11 and people with breathing problems are not required to wear a covering, which are the same exemptions as for public transport.

Anyone who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability is also exempt.

We'll be providing live coverage of how the rules are being followed across the county today.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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