One of Northern Ireland's best-known retailers has said he is in favour of compulsory face coverings for shoppers as the debate over masks intensified.
Health Minister Robin Swann has said he will make a proposal to the Executive to make face coverings mandatory in shops, while Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride has also indicated he is in favour of the measure.
But trade groups Retail NI and the Belfast Chamber have said they are opposed to making them compulsory, saying that it could threaten the already fragile recovery of the retail sector.
And they said they were against heaping further pressure on shop workers who could be burdened with enforcing the wearing of face coverings.
It is still not clear if police would take on the role of making sure such a rule was observed.
The Belfast Telegraph has asked the PSNI several times if it will comment on whether it will enforce the wearing of face coverings if they do become compulsory. However, it did not respond.
Pete Boyle, the managing director of jewellery chain Argento - which has around 20 stores in Northern Ireland - said he would approve of the step.
"I am in favour. Anything that makes us a safer place to live and work has to be welcomed," he said.
"We want to be able to trade but not at the cost of going backwards."
However, another traditional jeweller - who did not wish to be named - said they were concerned about the use of face coverings being exploited by shoplifters, who would then be harder to identify.
Peter Law, the owner of HF Law jewellers shop in Newcastle, Co Down, said he was undecided.
"I would say at the minute that around one in 20 people coming into the shop are wearing face coverings. They would tend to be older people or those with underlying health conditions."
He said he was concerned about the policing of a rule, adding: "At the moment, the way trade is, I can't see any shop owner refusing to let someone in the door because they're not wearing a face covering."
Eugene Diamond, a newsagent in Ballymena, Co Antrim, said: "I'm happy with face coverings if it makes for a safer environment for my customers and staff. I do encounter more people every day wearing them, especially older people."
But on Wednesday, he tweeted about a familiar customer who was virtually unrecognisable while wearing both a mask and a hat.
Tweeting a picture of the customer, Mr Diamond said: "If I hadn't already known this mask-wearing customer at 6am this morning, I would have been a little more startled.
"Mask-wearing will present new dangers for retailers so don't be surprised if your asked to remove your hat or hood... A new world for us all."
In a joint statement on Tuesday, retail leaders Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, and Simon Hamilton, head of Belfast Chamber, said that the mandatory wearing of masks "could adversely affect trade and generate serious issues around enforcement".
Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Roberts said the pair were not challenging the science which recommends the wearing of face coverings but said the issue required a sensitive approach. "We're not under any illusion about challenges ahead, not least with the prospect of a second wave.
"But we're asking that the Executive approaches it slightly differently and decide upon the unresolved issues around enforcement.
"Nobody has yet come up with a suggestion about how it's policed."
He said he wished to take a stand on the matter because of the importance of protecting workers as well as representing the interests of business owners.
And he said the dilemma over face coverings was only an element of the challenges facing retail. "I have talked to a number of firms across different sectors and obviously there are a variety of views but one thing is clear, whatever Executive decides, they need a comprehensive plan for high street rejuvenation, including getting workers back into offices.
"Whether masks are voluntary or mandatory, we're at a very fragile stage of recovery and we do need to see a rejuvenation plan."
On Wednesday, Lotus Property, which owns shopping destinations The Junction in Co Antrim and the Boulevard in Co Down, said footfall had been strong since reopening in June. Chris Flynn, centre director at The Junction, added: "Since reopening, our priority has been the safety of our colleagues and our customers...
"We are currently giving customers the option to purchase facemasks for all the family, should they feel more comfortable wearing these while shopping.
"We will be led by the NI Executive, however, as to whether the introduction of face coverings is to become mandatory and will adhere to any policy changes accordingly."
Face coverings in shops become compulsory in England from tomorrow, and have been in Scotland since July 10.
The Executive is due to meet today to discuss the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions but the wearing of face coverings and masks is not expected to be on the agenda for discussion. But a shop owner in Dumfries in Scotland has said he has found trade has fallen since they were introduced.
Ian Edgar, of Edgars' Newsagents and Filled Rolls, said his turnover had fallen over the last 10 days. He said that anecdotally, other business were also feeling the effects. "Other shops are also saying that they're hearing from customers that they'd rather just shop online, and I'm also hearing that big shops have seen a big increase in Click and Collect as well as online shopping."
From reports of reckless sneezing to responsible teenagers doing their bit, and those so disgusted by wearing masks that they shelled out for large taxi fares instead, taking a journey on public transport is now a very different experience.