BRITS want cops to be given greater powers to enforce the wearing of masks in public places, a poll reveals.
The overwhelming majority of people back government rules to combat coronavirus – and want tougher action against offenders.
Six in ten think police should be given powers to arrest anyone who fails to cover up or flouts any other lockdown rules.
And they are prepared to put up with covering their faces for as long as it takes, according to a survey by Redfield and Wilton Strategies.
The findings will are a boost for Boris Johnson who has promised the police will play a much bigger role in enforcing the rules, as well as breaking up large gatherings.
Senior police officers have said they do not have the resources and say greater responsibility should be on shopkeepers to make sure customers stay in line.
Official figures show that just 13 fines have been handed out by police forces in June after masks became mandatory on public transport – even though they have the power to fine people up to £100 for failing to wear a mask.
Our poll reveals that 60 per cent think police should have power of arrest anyone flouting the mask rules, while only 20 per cent disagree.
Nine out of ten people say they will comply – raising the prospect that masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Increasing anger at people flouting mask rules
Only six per cent say they are already unable to tolerate them and most say that shop staff should be forced to wear them, too.
More than a third of people – 35 per cent – say they are willing to bear compulsory face coverings until a vaccine or effective treatment has been found or the virus eradicated.
A further 15 per cent will be happy to put up with it for the next three months, 17 per cent until the end of the year and seven per cent until next summer.
But there is increasing intolerance of those who flout the rules.
Four out of ten people say they have witnessed “mask rage” on public transport – and in some cases it has exploded into violence.
Some 43 per cent say their have seen people arguing over another’s failure to cover up and 37 per cent have seen it turn to physical aggression.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This is disappointing but sadly not surprising, given the utter muddle ministers got into over masks.
“This virus exploits ambiguity and we need clear messaging from the government, not Cabinet confusion.”
Wearing a face covering also became compulsory in petrol stations, post offices, banks, shopping centres and bus stations last week – with exemptions only for young kids and people with certain medical conditions.
Supermarket bosses insist it is up to the police to enforce the rules and say staff have been told not to challenge those without masks for fear of violent attacks.
They have so far refused to enforce the requirement and ministers have warned people should not be “accosted” if they fail to mask up.
Majority of Brits not ready for return to theatres and live gigs
Some retailers fear that asking shop assistants to challenge non-wearers could lead to further abuse against them.
Jo Whitfield, of the Co-op, said: “On a daily basis, they face abuse, threatening behaviour and even physical assault.
“Our own figures show that during the Covid crisis such instances have risen and enforcing the wearing of face masks could be another flashpoint that shope workers don’t need.”
The overwhelming majority of people – 88 per cent – say they will comply with the rule and wear a mask when out shopping, our poll found.
One in three people, 33 per cent, say they will be MORE likely to visit a shop now masks are mandatory, while 19 per cent say they will be less likely.
Most people think it is still unsafe to reopen theatres and music venues, even with social distance, with 48 per cent saying it is too risky, 31 per cent who think it is safe and 22 undecided.
And a majority of people think face coverings should also be made mandatory in the office or workplace, in schools and for staff in pubs and restaurants. But there is less support for compulsory masks outdoors, with 30 per cent in favour and 60 per cent against.
- Redfield and Wilton Strategies interviewed 2,000 adults 18+ and the data was weighted.
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