From today (Tuesday, November 30), the government has confirmed that face masks will be made compulsory once again after cases of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant were detected in the UK.
These restrictions will see mask wearing reintroduced in shops and on public transport but speaking to the YEP, Tara Carlile-Swift of Freckleface Home Fragrance, fears that these are just the first steps towards another national lockdown.
"We feel it's inevitable and it will be incredibly harmful." she said "It makes you put everything on hold. Not knowing what's coming makes you more cautious with your business decisions.
"Not knowing is more harmful than knowing as at least you can plan when you know."
The Omicron strain, first detected in South Africa, has been dubbed the “worst ever” coronavirus mutation, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitting that it appears to spread “very rapidly” amidst fears that it may reduce the protection offered by existing vaccines.
The reinstatement of mask wearing will bring England back in line with the rest of the UK.
A spokesperson for Landsec, which owns Leeds' popular Trinity and White Rose shopping centres, said: “Following on from the Government’s announcement at the weekend, we would like to reassure everyone who visits our centres that nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of all our visitors.
“As we have throughout the pandemic, we will follow Government guidance. And as the Government has said, from Tuesday, November 30th everyone visiting Trinity Leeds and White Rose shopping centre will be legally required to wear a face covering. Without one, our teams may ask people to leave unless they are exempt. Our teams will also be wearing face masks to protect those around them.
“We’re also continuing with the additional cleaning regimes that we’ve had in place throughout the pandemic and hand sanitiser will still be available.”
New rules surrounding mask wearing will be enforceable via fines with a £200 fine for the first offence, with this charge then doubling for any further rule breaks.
Ally Dowsing-Reynolds, co-CEO at Leeds-based home decor brand Dowsing & Reynolds, has also welcomed the reintroduction of mask wearing in the hopes that it will avoid a national lockdown.
"We welcome the wearing of masks again to protect both the safety of our customers and of our team." she said "We'd like to keep the showroom open rather than go into another lockdown, so we hope that by taking quick measures to reduce the spread of Covid, that might be avoided."
In a statement provided to the YEP a Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “Evidence has shown wearing masks in crowded or enclosed settings can reduce transmission of the virus and help protect those around you. There is much still to learn about the potential impact of this new variant but Leeds has consistently responded to Covid-19 developments promptly and effectively.
"We are linking closely with UKHSA and government to ensure that we are up to date with the situation and following any changes to guidance and, as always, encourage residents to wear a mask, wash their hands regularly and get vaccinated.”
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