Southport Business Improvement District Chief Executive Officer Rachel Fitzgerald

Southport Business Improvement District is backing new rules which require customers to wear face coverings or face masks when visiting shops and supermarkets from this Friday (July 24).

The new rules, which were announced by the Government earlier this month, aim to make life safer for both customers and retail workers against coronavirus, which has claimed more than 45,000 lives in the UK.

The regulations also aim to minimise risk as local firms continue to rebuild their businesses and welcome back customers after three months in lockdown.

Shoppers are also being encouraged to show patience and understanding with shop staff over the coming weeks as the new rules come into force. The new regulations are being brought in by the Government, not retailers, and it is a national requirement that people without face coverings should be refused entry to shops.

Southport BID CEO Rachel Fitzgerald said: “Southport’s independent businesses are now fighting to keep their business alive.

“After three incredibly stressful months, they have all worked extremely hard to make their shops ready to welcome us all back and to do all they can to keep you safe when you visit Southport.

“We all must work together to support them, to ensure the future of our high street.

“We understand there are divided opinions on the issue of face coverings, what we ask is that you understand that shop staff are required to ask you to wear a mask.

“We want to encourage people, whatever your views, to be respectful. Please be kind. Be patient. Treat all staff with respect.

“Support them in any way you can, we all have our part to play.

“If you can, please shop local. Please pay them a visit, discover somewhere new.

“We understand not everyone feels it is time to visit shops yet. In the meantime, if you can, buy from them online or follow them and like their posts on social media then please do. It all helps. “We are all in this together still.”

Many ‘essential Southport businesses, including food shops and supermarkets, have remained open through the coronavirus pandemic.

Many ‘non essential’ shops reopened on July 4 and have been slowly followed by other premises including restaurants, cafes, bars, barbers, hairdressers, beauty salons and others, with gyms due to reopen later this month.

Over the past four months Southport BID has been working closely with local firms, providing practical and up-to-date help and guidance over accessing business grants and loans.

They have also been helping businesses to become Covid secure by ensuring that correct safety measures are in place.

As businesses have reopened, footfall has steadily increased. Southport BID wants to encourage more local residents and visitors to feel secure in visiting Southport and the amenities here.

They also want to see greater protection for those who work in Southport’s shops.

Sadly, sales assistants, cashiers and security guards have suffered disproportionately in this crisis.

The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75% higher among men, and 60% higher among women than in the general population. As shopping returns, we must keep our shopkeepers safe.

The wearing of face coverings or face masks on public transport and in NHS buildings has already been made compulsory. This has been successful in giving people more confidence to travel on public transport and visit hospitals when they need to.

Under the new rules, people who do not wear a face covering in shops or supermarkets will face a fine of up to £100. In line with the sanction on public transport and just as with public transport, children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

Should an individual without an exemption refuse to wear a face covering, a shop can refuse them entry and can call the police if people refuse to comply, the police have the formal enforcement powers and can issue a fine.