NINE in 10 shoppers in Leigh town centre have been recorded as wearing face coverings during patrols undertaken by Wigan Council’s regulatory services team and Greater Manchester Police (GMP).

On Wednesday last week, September 16, officers visited three supermarkets and reported that 479 out of 532 shoppers were taking the appropriate safety measure in a bid to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Furthermore, of the 53 that were not wearing any facial protection, 24 had valid exemptions not to and the majority wore visible badges to indicate this.

The patrols were part of a joint campaign by Wigan Council and GMP to offer support and guidance but also educate people on regulations set out by the government due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The patrols were well received by the public with the exercise helping give shoppers confidence that the issue of wearing a face covering was important.

A small number of shoppers who were not wearing a covering and not offering a valid exemption were challenged and reminded of the legal requirement to wear one.

Cllr Keith Cunliffe, Wigan Council’s deputy leader, who represents the Leigh East ward, said: “Wearing a face covering can help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and the regulations are there to protect everyone.

“Infection rates in the borough are rising so never has it been more important to not only wear a face covering but to also wash your hands regularly and watch your space so we can reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.

“It’s great to hear the vast majority of shoppers understand the importance of wearing face coverings and I hope this can continue as we attempt to bring down infection rates.”

It is important to remember that a face covering should cover both the nose and mouth and must be worn in various indoor settings such as on public transport, in shops and supermarkets, shopping centres, personal care and beauty treatment premises, visitor attractions and entertainment venues and libraries, among other places.

The police can take enforcement measures if members of the public do not comply with the law without a valid exemption and transport operators can deny access to public transport services if a passenger is not wearing a face covering.

Those who flout the law can be issued £100 fines which then double to £200 for the second offence, £400 for the third and up to a maximum of £3,200.

Chief Inspector Liz Sanderson, from Greater Manchester Police, added: "We all have a part to play in reducing the spread of COVID-19 within our local communities, to help protect family, friends and others around us.

"Guidelines are issued to help protect everyone, and businesses have a duty to ensure government guidelines are being followed.

“Our officers will continue to engage, explain and encourage individuals and businesses to follow the regulations, and fines will be issued to those who refuse to comply."

"We understand there are many people who do have valid medical reasons not to wear face coverings but officers continue to encourage those who do have a valid exemption to have indicators clearly on show which are available from various medical support groups.

"More patrols in the borough by the council and GMP are planned in the coming weeks."