CORK retailers have said plans for mandatory wearing of face masks in stores and shopping centres is a “new way of being” but uncertainty surrounds enforcement.
The Government has announced that face coverings must now be worn in all shops, retail settings and shopping centres.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said people should start obeying the guidance immediately, but regulations will take some time to draft.
Managing director of Vibes and Scribes, Joan Lucey, led the way on mask-wearing policies when she asked customers to wear a mask in-store upon the reopening of the popular bookstore on Lavitt’s Quay back in mid-June.
The store was then subject to a backlash on social media over the decision which Ms Lucey said she was “totally shocked and surprised” by.
Customers were invited to wear their own masks or to pick up a mask made available in store with donations going toward supporting the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork which customers argued was an “absurd requirement” in an attempt to boycott the store.
At that time, the latest official advice from the HSE stated that face coverings should be worn in situations where it is difficult to practice social distancing, such as in shops and on public transport.
Since then, face coverings have been made compulsory on public transport and it was announced on Wednesday by Micheál Martin that they would now be made mandatory in shops and shopping centres also.
Ms Lucey said: “I think there has been a change in attitude and customers are now doing what is asked of them.
“People are getting more used to the masks now and we’re finding that more and more people are arriving with their own masks on.”
She said that there are some people who cannot wear the masks for different reasons and those people are being given 10 minutes to spend in the stores.
She said that although the provision of masks is “a bit expensive” and “demanding”, that it is the same for every business and that it is “the new way of being”.
“Nobody seems to be too upset about it, I think people understand and there hasn’t been any disturbance and people have been very supportive. We’ve had letters written and messages of support sent to us on social media,” she said.
“Let's encourage everybody and if everybody does it together they’ll feel the better of it.”
Manager of Wilton Shopping Centre, Susanne Irwin, said that although she believes that wearing a mask in stores is “a good thing”, that her staff will not be enforcing it.
“All we can do is advise people and say that the Government guidelines are what they’re going to be but our staff won’t be enforcing it.
“I think it’s good because shops and shopping centres are enclosed spaces and the figures are starting to rise again and we don’t want to see that but it will be interesting to see how it’s enforced,” she said.
Staff of Wilton Shopping Centre already wear masks and she said that about 50% of customers have been wearing them to date.
“You just have to do it for yourself and your family basically, that’s why you wear the mask so hopefully people will wear them,” she said.