Former Larne mayor calls for people to shop local and wear face covering

A former mayor of Larne has called for customers to wear face covering and support traders in the town as they reopen after lockdown.
A passenger wearing a protective face mask on board a bus in Belfast. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISONA passenger wearing a protective face mask on board a bus in Belfast. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
A passenger wearing a protective face mask on board a bus in Belfast. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Tommy Robinson was commenting after East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson claimed that compulsory wearing of face masks could deter shoppers.

The debate comes with Health Minister Robin Swann this week expected to bring a proposal to the Executive to make face coverings mandatory in shops in Northern Ireland.

Mr Robinson said: “I don’t believe having to wear a face mask to go into a shop or a business will prevent people from shopping and we should all remember that this is a short term measure.
“We all know how difficult a time this is for businesses right now across the board, so as a former mayor of the Larne borough, I would like to call on people to ensure they support local businesses and thereby local jobs which they sustain.

Sammy Wilson MP.Sammy Wilson MP.
Sammy Wilson MP.

“We have already seen a few shops not reopening because of the impact of lockdown and we don’t want to see any more.”

UK-bakery chain Greggs and Cancer Research UK have both recently announced they are not reopening their Larne Main Street outlets as pandemic restrictions ease.

Mr Robinson, a former Ulster Unionist councillor who served two terms as first citizen, continued: “I have no doubt local people will be happy to wear masks, knowing that it reassures others in the community.

“I think it is more likely that people will not go out to shops if they see that no one is wearing masks. At this present time, when it is not a requirement, while many people are not wearing masks, others are not.

Tommy Robinson.Tommy Robinson.
Tommy Robinson.

“You expect your public representatives to give a lead and if wearing a mask in shops helps to save lives and helps to stop the spread of the virus, it is a very small price to pay.

“I am totally convinced of the need to wear masks in shops and other enclosed public spaces and I was dismayed when I saw an article by Mr Wilson decrying the need for it.”

The latter was a reference to a statement by Mr Wilson last week in which he expressed surprise “that at a time when were supposed to be emerging into a greater degree of normality that the Health Minister is supporting a move towards the mandatory use of face masks in shops”.

The DUP representative added: “Even at the height of the pandemic, the minister and his experts were questioning the value of face masks, other than in environments of extreme risk such as hospitals, care homes etc. Many shops stayed open and did regular, normal business at the height of the pandemic. Customers were not required to wear face masks, yet there was no massive outbreak of coronavirus amongst shop workers.

“Now at a time when we are trying to entice people out of their homes, back to work and back to normal commercial behaviour in order to restore the economy, we are faced with the likely compulsory wearing of face masks in shops.

“First of all, this will only reinforce the fear of many, who having had the life scared out of them by warnings of death on a biblical scale, will feel that it remains unsafe to come out.

“Secondly, for those who do not want to wear face masks, it will decrease footfall on our high streets and drive people towards the online market.

“Thirdly, it is unclear as to how such rules would be enforced. Does the minister expect hard pressed shop owners to throw people out of their shops because they are not wearing a face mask? Does he expect every shop owner to go to the cost of employing security who will carry out this enforcement? Does he expect councils to employ additional health officers to patrol shops and shopping centres? Or is this a job to be left to the PSNI?”

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has set up a Town Centre Recovery Group working to ensure a safe and sustainable return to normality for shops and businesses.

Wearing a face covering will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England from July 24 and it is already compulsory in Scotland.

The use of face coverings on public transport (unless someone is in an exempt group) is mandatory in Northern Ireland.


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