THE POLICE have been explaining their role now that face coverings have become mandatory in shops.

Coverings became compulsory in enclosed public spaces including supermarkets, indoor shopping centres and banks on Friday, July 24.

Police have the power to hand out fines of up to £100 to anyone who does not comply - but many forces, including North Yorkshire, are saying they will only do this as a last resort.

Instead, they are hoping shop managers will take responsibility for asking those without masks to leave.

North Yorkshire Police Superintendent Charlotte Bloxham, silver commander for the response to COVID-19, said: “As with the policing of the previous coronavirus regulations we know the vast majority of people will do as the Government have asked, as they know how important it is to protect themselves, their families and other people.

“Since the new regulations were announced we have been liaising with local retailers to explain how we will police them.

“Demand on our service is almost back to normal pre-coronavirus levels, so we have to prioritise where we deploy our officers.

“We will take a sensible approach to enforcement and hope people understand that we cannot attend every incident.

“To that end, please bear this in mind before reporting anyone for not wearing a face-covering.

“To help keep our phone lines free for urgent policing matters we urge anyone who wishes to report a breach of the regulations to do so via our online coronavirus reporting form, which can be found on our website. Please only call if a situation escalates and your safety is threatened.”

North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, added: “Controlling the spread of the virus, which it seems clear will be part of our lives for some time, is a vital part of trying to return to a more normal way of life.

“Wearing face masks in shops and supermarkets is one part of that and I support the new rules and North Yorkshire Police’s approach to them. Clearly, it is never going to be possible for officers to police every retailer or respond to every report of someone not wearing a mask.

“If you have concerns, please report them on the North Yorkshire Police website rather than calling 101.”

West Yorkshire Police Federation Chair Brian Booth made similar points in a statement which also insisted that it was unrealistic to expect police officers to become ‘face mask monitors’.

National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, meanwhile has said police enforcement should be ‘the very last resort’ - with officers only going out to shops if people who are not wearing a face covering refuse to leave.