The people of Cheshire are being urged to be prepared ahead of further changes to coronavirus legislation later this week.
From Friday 24 July it will become mandatory for all residents over the age of 11 to wear a face covering inside all retail stores and supermarkets.
Police officers will have the power to issue a £100 fine to anyone who breaches the new rules – this fine will be reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days.
There are also a number of exemptions in place, including for those with a disability or specific medical condition and any child under the age of 11.
The new law does not apply to staff working in shops and people are not required to wear masks inside pubs, bars or restaurants.
Superintendent Julie Westgate said: “These changes should act as a reminder to everyone that COVID-19 has not gone away and it is essential we continue to do all we can to reduce the spread of this virus.
“Everyone needs to play their part and take personal responsibility by ensuring they follow the guidance and wear a face covering whenever required.
“While police do have the power to issue fines to anyone who breaches the legislation – this will be a last resort and we are relying on the goodwill of the people of Cheshire in sticking to the rules.
“Retailers are expected to manage entry to their stores and compliance with the law while customers are inside.
“Therefore, if you are out and about in a retail store and see somebody who you believe may be breaching the regulations, please don’t call 101 straight away – we would urge you to speak to a store worker who can then attempt to resolve the issue within the store.
“In cases where the store worker is unable to resolve the issue, they themselves can contact police for support.
“In instances where police attendance is required, we will continue to use common sense and discretion to determine what is reasonable, with officers using the 4Es approach of engaging, explaining, encouraging and, only as a last resort, enforcing.”
There are no specifications on the type of face covering that must be used – this can include cloth masks, scarves and bandanas.
The only stipulation is that they must cover the mouth and nose.
Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane added: “The vast majority of Cheshire residents have followed the government’s advice to reduce the risk of spreading the virus over the past few months and I am confident that this will continue.
“This new legislation around the wearing of face coverings has been put in place to help protect us all and to prevent the spread Coronavirus. Therefore it is essential that all residents continue to stay alert to the threat of the virus and follow all of the guidelines, including face coverings and social distancing measures, to help save lives and protect the NHS.
“I would also urge Cheshire residents to respect retail workers who may encourage the wearing of face coverings. Any aggression or abuse towards retail workers will not be tolerated.”
For further details regarding the legislation visit: Face coverings mandatory in shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and enclosed transport hubs from Friday