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Borough Market first outdoor space to legally enforce wearing of face masks

The rule can be enforced thanks to the London market’s own set of bylaws passed in Parliament, which date back to before the Victorian era.

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A shopper wearing a protective face mask at Borough Market in London in June 2020 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

A shopper wearing a protective face mask at Borough Market in London in June 2020 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

A shopper wearing a protective face mask at Borough Market in London in June 2020 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Borough Market in London has become the first outdoor space in the UK to legally enforce the wearing of face masks.

From Monday, customers and vendors at the food and drink market will face a £50 fine if they do not wear a face covering in and around the stalls.

The rule can be enforced thanks to the market’s own set of bylaws passed in Parliament, which date back to before the Victorian era and have been updated to reflect the pandemic.

Kate Howell, director of development at the central London venue, said: “I think we just have to be responsible.”

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

Ms Howell told the PA news agency: “We’re open as an essential retailer but we want to keep it safe for everybody.”

Market organisers have encouraged mask-wearing and distancing throughout the pandemic, but with rising infection rates in the capital and the third national lockdown in England, they felt they had to go further.

Ms Howell explained: “Whilst we’ve done everything we can to politely encourage people to wear masks and keep to social distancing and keep the space safe, now is the time to really show our intent.”

She went on: “We’ve got to a stage where we feel as responsible landlords that, actually given we do have these bylaws, in our reckoning that we’re able to say, ‘We’re going to make this mandatory’.”

Pre-lockdown, the market welcomed thousands of visitors each day, and Ms Howell joined other industry voices in describing the hospitality sector as “really hard hit by this whole period”.

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The scene outside Borough Market on July 4 2020, when coronavirus restrictions were eased in England (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The scene outside Borough Market on July 4 2020, when coronavirus restrictions were eased in England (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

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The scene outside Borough Market on July 4 2020, when coronavirus restrictions were eased in England (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“It’s perhaps been the less than clear messaging at times that has had a huge impact on trade,” she added.

Her comments come after the Government’s top medic suggested there could be times when there is “logic” for wearing a mask outdoors.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty told BBC Radio 4 there is a “risk” of Covid-19 in “crowded” outdoor environments such as a “queue”.

On the Today programme, he said: “If people for example are crowded together in a queue outdoors, if they’re really huddled together round a market stall or something – that is a risk with this virus – and in that situation, there might be some logic to people thinking about wearing masks.”

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