Rival grocer Morrisons (LON:MRW) said yesterday it would ban shoppers not wearing masks from its outlets, while Sainsbury’s (LON:SBRY) is to bring in security guards to challenge those not wearing coverings or shopping in groups.
Tesco said that it already has extensive social distancing measures in its stores, but from today only those who are medically exempt will be allowed in without a mask.
“We are also asking our customers to shop alone, unless they’re a carer or with children," a spokesman was reported as saying.
Asda and Waitrose also said they said they would enforce the wearing of facemasks, though Asda said it would continue to offer them one free of charge.
However, "if a customer refuses to wear a covering without a valid medical reason and be in any way challenging to our colleagues about doing so, our security colleagues will refuse their entry," a spokesman told the BBC.
Andrew Murphy, executive director of operations at Waitrose, said there had been a clear change of tone in recent days.
A surge in the number of cases of Covid-19 in the UK has already prompted Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, to warn that the country is at the worst point of the pandemic so far.
Reports over the weekend suggested a further tightening of restrictions is being considered by the government to try to halt the rising tide of deaths and infections.
That might include a ban on click and collect services everywhere except for essential retailers to stop people queuing too closely together while waiting to pick up items such as takeaways and online purchases.
A requirement for everyone to wear face coverings when they go outside is another option under consideration, while a pause on house moves is also said to be on the agenda.
Underlining the difficult balancing act facing the government, Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, warned today that the latest Coviid-19 lockdown had put the economy in a very difficult position and the new restrictions would likely delay a recovery.
Bailey said the economy would still recover but only after the lockdown had ended and worries over the spread of the virus ease.
Shares in Tesco eased 1.3% to 241.3p.