‘No muzzles allowed’: Chichester shop owner explains why he put up signs banning face mask-wearing customers
A shop owner in Chichester has put up signs saying customers wearing face masks will be banned from entering.
Michael Schneider, who owns J Voke Vintage Tearoom in the Hornet, branded face masks as ‘Government muzzles’ which provide ‘no protection’ from Covid-19.
In the signs, titled the ‘con-a-virus notice’, Mr Scheider said customers ‘cannot shop here’ if you ‘consent to Government demands’.
However, clarifying those comments to the Observer, the café and vintage shop owner, who is medically exempt from wearing a mask, said ‘people are free to do whatever they want’.
The UK Government made it compulsory for face masks to be worn in shops and supermarkets, unless you are medically exempt.
The World Health Organisation says masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives.
Mr Schneider said: “If they feel safer wearing a mask, wear a mask. If they believe they have to wear a mask, they are wrong and I will try to put them right. It’s just Government advice, it’s not the law.
“A mask offers no protection. There was no risk assessment. I believe in human rights.
“If I was losing customers because of my posters, I might have changed my mind but I am gaining customers.”
Mr Schneider has been visited by Sussex Police and Chichester District Council after complaints from the public.
A spokesperson for Chichester District Council said: “We have received some complaints about the face covering signage at J Voke Vintage Tearoom and these have been passed on to Sussex Police.”
Sussex Police confirmed that it would be taking no further action as Mr Scheider, in conversation with officers, said that he ‘wasn’t actually going to refuse entry to anybody wearing a face mask’.
A spokesperson said: “This first came to our notice in July when a city PCSO, routinely in contact with local shopkeepers and businesses, spoke to the proprietor having seen the notice.
“He told the PCSO that it was just his belief that they shouldn’t be wearing them because he believed that Covid-19 was a fraud and didn’t exist.
“He was neither asked nor directed to remove the poster.”
Mr Schenider said that he wasn’t ‘trying to rock the boat’ by putting up the notices but was ‘left with no other avenue’.
He continued: “We cannot be made to wear a mask if we do not consent. The evidence does not support the guidelines.
“If people disagree, I invite them to come and tell me where I’ve got it wrong.”
The UK Government has made it compulsory for face masks to be worn in shops and supermarkets, unless you are medically exempt. You are expected to wear a face covering before entering and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it. Read more here
Dr Alex Hall, a doctor, who specialises in anaesthetics and intensive care, said Mr Schneider’s views contradict public health advice.
He added: “I have seen first hand the effect coronavirus has had on our healthcare system and on the lives of those affected. When making medical decisions or policy, a huge amount of data is assimilated to provide best guidance. This is the principle of evidence-based medicine and is what the majority of our research and innovations in healthcare are based on.
“The shop owner makes claims but provides zero evidence to back up his claim.”
Dr Hall said public engagement in measures to reduce the spread of aerosolised viral particles are crucial given a potential ‘second wave’.
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