Morrisons, Sainsburys, Asda and Tesco enforce face mask rule - Sussex readers react to the move

Following news Morrisons - and now Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda - have said they will enforce the rule that shoppers must wear a face mask unless medically exempt we asked our readers if they agreed with the move.

More than 8,000 of you took to our Facebook pages to discuss and debate this emotive subject.

On the whole the majority of readers welcomed the decision and said it would make them feel safer when visiting the supermarkets.

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However, some readers said they were unhappy with the decision while others said they did not believe masks helped protect shoppers and might even cause more harm, especially if not washed after each wear and not removed properly.

Morrisons supermarket chain said customers who refused to wear a mask without a medical exemption will be told to leave its stores. Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Siân Egerton Hancock wrote: "So for those who can't legally wear them, how do they suggest those people get food etc? Not everyone has the Internet, not everyone wants tons of products to warrant home delivery. Personally it's a ridiculous idea!! Not all staff are able to wear them either so how do they expect customers to??"

Welcoming the decision

In Eastbourne Shirley Buckman wrote: "You know what, all the staff in supermarket have to wear masks visors etc to protect us as customers, why on earth can we not just do the same for them and protect those who are serving us!"

Jon Targett from Horsham added: "No mask, no entry, there are very few genuine exemptions."

Many shop workers joined in with the discussion.

Karen Torrance wrote: "I work in a supermarket and think wearing a mask should be enforced and I get particularly annoyed at people who wear their masks under their nose or pull their mask down to talk to me. The reason it is not enforced is because some, not all, customers get aggressive about it and it is therefore a safety concern for the staff. I find the majority of people who don't wear masks tend to be 20 something males and if you confront them, they, without fail, tell you they have asthma!!"

Katy Warren from Worthing added: "I work in retail and the volume of people without masks and refusing to wear them is ridiculous. I am actually mask exempt as I am ‘clinically vulnerable’ but I put up with wearing a mask, sometimes for many hours at a time, as I know the protection it offers me, my colleagues and customers. Please, please wear a mask, in my eyes there is no excuse not too."

Likewise, many of our readers who work in the medical profession joined in the debate.

In Chichester PJ Saysell-Rosales wrote: "If I can wear a respirator mask for 13 hours a day running around a hot hospital ward caring for patients with Covid, anyone can wear a surgical mask for 30 minutes to do their shopping. No excuses. Good on Morrisons."


Certain groups of people are exempt from wearing face masks due to physical and mental health reasons. You can read the list of exemptions here on the UK government website.However, many readers who are medically exempt raised fears they would be discriminated against for not being able to wear a mask.

Kirsty Hood wrote: "My oldest is autistic and cannot wear a mask as hates her face being touched. My son is adhd so impulsively rips it off....I suffer with anxiety related panic attacks and been told if I wear a mask I will cause more work for the NHS. I do try but unfortunately I end up blacking out. I'm sight impaired so a visor isn't a good thing for me either. I have proof (my medical list) but I'm not going to show all my details off to someone who might ask. The only ones who need to know I'm exempt is my gp and both my consultants."

Several readers highlighted the Equality Act when it came to discriminating against those with disabilities.

Tiffany Amanda Rosewell wrote: "People have to respect the guidance, medical exemption and disability exemption. Also comply with laws and in particular the disability act. If the GOV felt there was a risk to those exempt, why would they issue exemptions in the first place? They clearly have weighed up the risks and decided those with underlying conditions, medical conditions or disability would be more at risk for wearing a mask! SIMPLES!"

Despite this a number of readers said they were still wearing the masks as much as possible.

Ray Val Gravener wrote: "Due to asthma I have trouble breathing in a mask but I still wear it, it's a must, to protect myself and others. If you're not well enough to wear a mask don't go out , simple."

On the Worthing Facebook page Rosemary Hudson wrote: "My children have Autism and were using the exemption card but gradually we have got them used to masks for short periods of time if needed. We just kept trying different styles until they found the one they were most comfortable with. I am not saying it will work for everyone but it did for us."

Concern regarding how easy it is to buy an exemption card or hidden disabilities sunflower lanyard was raised by some readers.

Brian Day said: "There are people who are genuinely exempt for medical reasons but like with many situations it's not helped by exemption badges being available on the Internet to download.So unfortunately the genuine few who cannot wear masks are being penalised. Not everything is available via click and collect."

Shop rights

In Eastbourne Luke Williams wrote: "Corona or not it’s their premises they can set their own regulations on the conditions of entry, just like certain night clubs not allowing trainers etc .... same principle."

Human Rights

Human rights was a topic discussed in relation to this issue. While some readers argued it violated their human rights to have to wear a mask others said the opposite.

Jane Stoakes wrote: "I thought wearing masks was mandatory, unless there's a medical reason why one can't be worn. If supermarkets are prepared to issue masks to those who don't have one, then if that customer refuses to wear it they must be refused entry. I have 'human rights' too and it's my right to be protected from this virus where possible."

Mask wearing rules abroad

Many former Sussex residents who now live abroad have shared their experiences, stating the rules in France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Australia are all far stricter than in the UK.

Janet O'Dell wrote: "From my point of view in Melbourne Australia, where the problem is under control, partly due to strict measures including masks being compulsory in shops, I do not understand why any reasonably sensible person would not comply. There are notices on the entry doors of most shops, large and small, saying no mask, no entry. I keep spare masks in the car and put one on before getting out of the car. It becomes a good habit."

Is there scientific evidence masks work?

A number of readers took to our Facebook pages and argued that mask wearing does not protect wearers.

Tim Whale from Horsham compared the situation to fascism and wrote: "So, an item that after almost a year of usage still has absolutely no credible scientific medical evidence proving it prevents the contracting and spreading of a microscopic virus, is being demanded by people who actually subjectively believe they do stop spread and the contracting of the virus."

As a newspaper we are obliged to point out that the World Health Organization, which is made up of people who are technically qualified in the field of health, has stated: "Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives."

While it states that 'the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against COVID-19' it goes on to say: "Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people. The appropriate use, storage and cleaning or disposal of masks are essential to make them as effective as possible."

If you are unsure about the correct way to wear your mask, remove it safely and how it should be cleaned then you can read more on The World Health Organization website here.