Special report: In King's Lynn there's a mixed reaction to new mask rules

Ian Cook

Ian Cook, who was insisting customers wore face covering at Blackfriars Antiques Centre, in King's Lynn - Credit: Chris Bishop

Some shoppers and shop staff were throwing caution to the wind on the day face coverings became compulsory in shops again.

Others welcomed the ruling until we know more about how the latest strain of Covid.

Workers and customers could be seen flouting the rules, particularly in some of the larger multiple chains in King's Lynn.

It came as the town's independents opened their doors to a fresh setback this morning after 18 months of weathering the coronavirus storm.

Norfolk police said they would aim to educate and encourage people to follow the rules.

A spokesman said: "Our experience from previous restrictions around face coverings suggest that, in most cases, incidents involving non-compliance are resolved by staff in the first instance.

"Enforcement does not and should not always result in police involvement and everyone has a role to play in encouraging people to be responsible.

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"We will work closely with our partners and businesses and respond to incidents where people are violent or abusive towards staff. Our approach will be focused towards engaging, explaining the risks and encouraging people to comply with the rules."

Ministers said face coverings would be reviewed in three weeks' time when more is known about the newly-mutated Omicron strain, which has come from South Africa.

Ian Cook, who runs Blackfriars Antiques on King's Lynn's Tower Street, said: "We don't know what this new strain's going to do. We need to look after each other, a lot of our customers are elderly. I just hope we'll be able to remain open."

Mr Cook said most of his clientele had complied with the new masks rule, which came into force from 4am.

He said those who did not were politely challenged and asked to leave, although one had already objected.

"You'd better not write down what he said," he said. "But he had a go."

He added: "With the new variant people must shop local again. They should be telling people that."

Pstimes King's Lynn

Pastimes in King's Lynn, where owner Linda Howe said she had never stopped wearing a mask - Credit: Chris Bshop

Down the street, Linda Howe has run Pastimes for 42 years.

"I've always worn one, I've just carried on," she said. "Why not just help to protect each other?"

Another trader was in two minds. He said: "The government's doing this but there's still going to be tens of thousands going to football stadiums."

Asked how he would deal with customers who came in without a mask, he shrugged: "It's not down to me to enforce it. You don't want hostility with people, it's not worth it really.

"We could do with more people watching it on the street."

Record Shop

The Record Shop in Lynn - Credit: Chris Bishop

Down the almost-empty St James Street Tony Winfield, who has run Lynn institution The Record Shop for 25 years, said: "I find it difficult to work with it on but I can understand it. I put one on every time someone comes it."

Bernadette Chappell was putting the finishing touches to her Christmas display at Deck of Cards, on the High Street.

"We haven't had a problem here," she said. "I've only had one couple who've tried to come without a mask.

Bernadette Chappell

Bernadette Chappell at the Deck of Cards in King's Lynn High Street - Credit: Chris Bishop

"I said have you got one, they said they didn't but they'd go and get some and they'd be back.

"We're lucky most of our customers are elderly people who are pleased people are wearing masks."

Mrs Chappell, who has run her High Street store for 12 years thought fears over the new variant had made people think twice about venturing out.

"You can see it's starting to worry people," she said. "They're starting to get a bit nervous."

King's Lynn

An almost empty High Street in Lynn on the day that shoppers were told to begin wearing masks again - Credit: Chris Bishop

Face coverings are compulsory again in England in shops and settings such as banks, post offices, hairdressers, and public transport, unless people are exempt. Hospitality settings such as pubs and restaurants are not affected.

Graham Middleton, West Norfolk council's cabinet member for business, culture and heritage, said: "I think more needs to be done to remind people.

"Quite a few shops have got boxes of masks by the front door which is good but they can't sustain that." 

Another trader said said the police could not be outside every shop, adding: "I don't see how they can really. It's just down to people being sensible."

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