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Leicester shoppers grapple with rule changes on masks and local lockdown

By PA News

Shoppers in the first city in England to have a local lockdown imposed have been grappling with new rules on masks as non-essential stores were allowed to reopen.

Clothing retailers were among those allowed to welcome back customers in Leicester on Friday, after the relaxation of localised measures first imposed on June 29.

Restrictions were put in place by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock after a spike in Covid-19 infections in the city.

People wearing masks in Leicester city centre as face coverings become mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England. (Jacob King/PA)
People wearing masks in Leicester city centre as face coverings become mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England. (Jacob King/PA)

People had until now only been allowed to travel into the city for essential purchases, like food and medicine.

While non-essential visits are still barred, people can now visit newly reopened stores, while stocking up on necessities.

The city’s Primark in Humberstone Gate was open, with security on the door ensuring people were wearing face coverings – which became mandatory across England in shops, from Friday.

However, New Look and the neighbouring H&M stores remained “temporarily closed” due to the pandemic, according to signs fixed to the doors.

In the Haymarket shopping centre, about half of shoppers could be seen wearing masks, though some were wearing them around their chins.

At nearby the Highcross mall, there was prominent signage at the doorways pointing out the new rules.

Callum Goodson, a buyer with independent clothes store Pilot, in the busy Lanes city centre shopping district said levels of compliance from customers on mask-wearing rules had been high so far.

A shopper wearing a face mask leaves the Highcross shopping centre. (Jacob King/PA)
A shopper wearing a face mask leaves the Highcross shopping centre. (Jacob King/PA)

The 22-year-old said: “Everyone coming into the store have been wearing masks.

“If anyone does come in without a mask, we can offer them one.

“If they refuse it’s down to us if we accept that – but we haven’t had to do that so far.”

He added: “Everyone on the high street seems to have pretty much stuck to the rule.”

Mr Goodson said after the national relaxation of lockdown rules in June, it had been “like Christmas” in the store, which sells high-end clothing from the likes of Armani and Paul Smith.

But he added: “I won’t be surprised if it takes the rest of this year to pick back up to where we were before.”

I felt, 'do I really need this mask?'
Leicester shopper

Out on the high street, friends Paul Hutchinson and Matt Wileman, were debating the pros and cons of wearing a mask.

Mr Hutchinson said by buying a mask he “felt like I was buying into the populist opinion”.

“I felt, ‘do I really need this mask?’

“So I carry it (my mask) purely through politeness.”

“I haven’t caught Covid, I’m a healthy 56-year-old male, I don’t smoke or do anything horrible to my body.”

He added: “If I enter a shop I shall wear it.”

I think it's the rule isn't it, it's been set and you don't want to get fined do you really
Matt Wileman

Mr Wileman, a painter and decorator, said: “I just got refused from the bank, and the bus this morning, for not wearing a mask.”

He added: “I think it’s the rule isn’t it, it’s been set and you don’t want to get fined do you really.”

Mr Hutchinson said he felt there was a lack of clarity from the authorities around mask regulations.

“Look at all the people around that aren’t wearing masks and all these social gatherings at night and (people) having garden parties.

“Either enforce a law and make it compulsory, or you don’t.

“There’s 50% maskers and 50% who aren’t (wearing masks), what sense do you make of it all?

Want to know why I'm not wearing a mask? Because I don't need one.

“Are there any clear guidelines?

“As far as I’m concerned there aren’t.”

Corine, a retired NHS worker who declined to give her surname, said: “I wear the masks if it’s going to protect me.”

The 71-year-old said she found the guidance on wearing masks “very confusing” but was wearing a face covering.

Asked if this was the first time she had come to Leicester for non-essential reasons, she laughed and replied: “I’m naughty.

“I come into town everyday, I like a change of scenery.”

Emmanuel Twumasi, from Kettering in Northamptonshire, said wearing a mask was “important”.

“The virus is very dangerous and as yet we don’t have a vaccine for it,” added the 52-year-old cleaner, in the city on business.

“I think if we see someone not wearing a mask we should punish them because we’re losing a lot of people every day.”

But as he was talking to the PA news agency, another member of the public interrupted and said: “Want to know why I’m not wearing a mask?

“Because I don’t need one.”

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