A VISITOR to The Oracle recently felt so unsafe with the "lack of" Covid safety measures being implemented that he left the shopping centre after only 30 minutes.

The shopper, who didn't want to be named, said he had visited Reading from Maidenhead with his wife last Thursday (October 15), and said he had counted a total of 25 people not wearing a face covering inside The Oracle in a short period of time.

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He said: "This was including some retail staff.

"I also saw some lads that had come from school all grouped together hugging and chasing each other, but there were lots more too.

"It was mainly younger people that didn't seem to be wearing a mask, I'd say the oldest was probably around 25.

"I know anyone can have a health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, but I doubt it would have been so many people.

"I got the impression that retail was being affected in the shopping centre, so they eased up on the mask rules.

"I am a commercial landlord - I understand the pressures of Covid and the loss it brings about, but I wouldn't be allowing people to do that.

"If we are not careful we will be in a local lockdown."

He said the shopping centre, despite having signs up and hand sanitisers in place, didn't seem to be taking responsibility to enforce the rules of mask-wearing and social distancing.

"I'm from Maidenhead, and I usually see a few people about not wearing a mask, but I have never seen anything like this before.

"I couldn't wait to get out of there on Thursday.

"I understand that retail is suffering, but my understanding is that masks are a legal requirement inside a public space.

"I didn't feel safe at all.

"It seems like if you're going to catch the virus anywhere, it's there."

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A spokesman for The Oracle said: "We have introduced a range of new safety measures at The Oracle to keep our colleagues, retailers and customers safe - including a one way system, clear signage to encourage social distancing, and fixed hand sanitiser stations.

"We also proactively monitor footfall to ensure that there aren't too many people in the centre at any one time.

"We have clear signage throughout the centre reminding customers of the need to wear a face covering, and our security teams, which are positioned throughout the destination, also encourage the use of face coverings, as do in-store teams.

"While the proportion of visitors following the policy continues to increase, we, like other businesses, do rely on visitors being responsible and considering others."

Commenting on the situation, Reading Borough Council (RBC) nleader Jason Brock said: "The council and its partners, including Pubwatch and Reading UK, have been working with businesses, including retailers, across the borough throughout the pandemic.

"They advise businesses on all the safety measures needed and support where necessary to ensure these measures are in place – including signage reminding people to wear masks and socially distance, as well as prevention measures, such as providing customers with hand sanitiser.

"We would also remind people that numbers are rising in Reading and everyone needs to play their part in stopping the spread by following the guidelines.

"Wash your hands regularly with soap and use hand sanitiser when out; wear a face covering if you can; keep a safe distance from others – ideally 2 metres; stick to the rule of six (indoors and outdoors); isolate when you need to – if you or a member of your household develops symptoms or if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

"We know the majority of businesses are doing their best to follow the national guidance, however, if you have concerns about a business or premises in Reading not adhering to COVID-19 safety regulations, please contact the council by emailing:CV19Notifications@reading.gov.uk or call: 0118 937 2707.”