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UK supermarkets ask shoppers to keep wearing mask

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LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s biggest supermarket groups will encourage staff and customers to keep wearing face coverings from Monday despite new rules making it a matter of personal choice.

The government is removing most pandemic restrictions from July 19 in England, saying a rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has largely broken the link between infections and serious illness or death.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Aldi all said they would prefer staff and customers to keep wearing masks.

The groups – who are among Britain’s biggest private sector employers – said they would keep other safety measures in place, including limits on the number of people in stores, protective screens at checkouts and regular cleaning.

“We’re asking our customers and colleagues to be on the safe side,” Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket group, said.

An opinion poll published on Thursday by Kantar Public found two thirds of people wanted some, most or all of the coronavirus restrictions to remain and 60% thought everyone should continue to wear face masks in shops and on public transport.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acknowledged that a wave of infections is inevitable when restrictions end, but said worse harm would come from keeping the economy shut and pointed to the successful vaccine rollout.

Government advice is that people should still wear masks in crowded areas. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said they will remain mandatory on the capital’s public transport network.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Alistair Smout, Elaine Hardcastle and Andrew Heavens)

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