To mask or not

Muscat: Although not mandated by law, some hypermarkets in Muscat started insisting that customers wear masks and gloves while shopping.

While irate customers argue that the restriction comes at a time when “there is acute shortage of masks in the city”, hypermarket authorities claim “it is an additional measure to safeguard customers’ health”.

James Mathew, a customer said that he was denied entry to a supermarket for not wearing mask and hand gloves.

“I did not know about the mask policy until I reached the store. Nor is there any signboard showing no entry to people without masks. I keep myself abreast of the rules and regulations, but they never say it is mandatory to wear a mask while visiting a shop”,  he said.

He said if the stores insist on wearing masks, they should offer them free as some hypermarket chains give gloves while shopping in their stores.

Sandeep Menon, a sales executive with a leading food supply group, also confirmed that some hypermarkets started insisting on the need to wear masks and gloves.

 “Although this leaves many customers angry as these items are hard to come by since the lockdown. No doubt masks will prevent the spread of infection of the dreaded virus”,  he said.

However, the Royal Oman Police at the beginning of this month called on motorists to wear masks and gloves while driving for essential needs.

Sulfat Ali Bava, a housewife, said that along with facemasks, gloves, and sanitation, temperature scanners should be made mandatory at all the supermarkets whether they are big or small.

“I’m fully aware that wearing masks is something alien to us. But together we have to do everything so that we can quickly return to resist the spread of the pandemic”, she said.

At the same time, law experts point out that private commercial establishments can, theoretically be allowed to deny people entry especially a situation that threatens the health and safety of other people.

“Property owners like shopping malls or hypermarkets have the right to turn away those who do not wear masks or gloves in order to protect the health and well-being of others on the premises”, said Mohammed al Kiyumi, lawyer.

When contacted  Muhsin Naduvil, sales manager with a hypermarket said, “We insist on masks and gloves to protect both customers and workers inside our stores. We started implementing after realising that voluntary measures don’t go far enough”.

Following instructions from Ministry of Commerce and Industry, all supermarkets have ramped up cleaning and sanitation in stores in the recent weeks.

The order from the ministry mandates stores to create physical barriers, where possible, to separate shoppers from billing counters.

A statement from the ministry urged commercial centres and shops to avoid overcrowding.

The precautions that were mandated include entry of shoppers in groups, leaving a two-metre physical distancing between one consumer and another at the counter area, and disinfecting and sterilising shopping carts, hand rails and other common areas, as well as providing consumers with sanitizers.