Customers across New Zealand have been refused entry to some supermarkets for not wearing gloves and masks, even though health officials have advised people they don't have to wear them unless they are sick.

However, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said that businesses can do this as long as its conditions of entry are made clear to customers.

Kiwis have complained on several local Facebook pages that they weren't allowed in Tai Ping Asian Supermarkets because they were not wearing a mask.

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They also claimed the stores did not offer free masks and gloves, which left many angered as these items are hard to come by since the lockdown.

One concerned daughter told the Herald that her father waited in line for 30 minutes at Tai Ping in New Lynn only to be refused entry because he had no mask.

Tai Ping Asian Supermarket in New Lynn where a man was refused entry for not wearing a mask. Photo / Supplied
Tai Ping Asian Supermarket in New Lynn where a man was refused entry for not wearing a mask. Photo / Supplied

She returned the next day and was angered that there were no signs posted on store windows about the policy and that the store did not provide customers with face masks.

However, Tai Ping has clearly stated its rules on its Facebook page, which includes people having to wear a mask or cover their mouth with clothes.

When one customer complained on its Facebook page about the stores not advertising their no mask policy, the admin replied that they are looking at making improvements.

The admin said they understood people are frustrated after waiting in line, then to be told to wear a mask or cover their nose and mouth.

They said they have staff there to advise customers about their policy as soon as they arrive and had also put notices in front of the stores' door entrances.

The admin added as long as the customer can get something to cover their nose and mouth they would be allowed entry.

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They asked for people to respect their request even though they are not used to wearing a mask.

The Herald has contacted Tai Ping for comment.

Customers at New World Remuera have also been given the option to wear gloves before stepping in their store, however on Sunday morning a staff member misunderstood the policy and thought customers had to wear gloves before going in.

"As a part of their additional measures, New World Remuera is offering customers the choice to wear disposable latex-free gloves and hand sanitiser on entry to the store," Antoinette Laird, Foodstuffs' head of corporate affairs, told the Herald.

"This offer of gloves and sanitiser for customers has always been optional at New World Remuera, however, there was a misunderstanding on Sunday morning where a staff member understood this not to be the case.

"The misunderstanding has been cleared up and we apologise to any customers who may have been affected."

Laird clarified that all Foodstuffs stores are implementing a range of additional measures to support the elimination of Covid-19.

"These measures vary from store to store and include: wipes for hands and trolleys, disinfecting trolley handles for every use, face masks and gloves for staff who want to wear them, plastic protective screens at checkout and between checkout - plus we are encouraging the use of contactless payment and customers packing their own bags," she said.

Customers across New Zealand have been refused entry in some supermarket stores for not wearing gloves and masks. Photo / Cliff Joiner
Customers across New Zealand have been refused entry in some supermarket stores for not wearing gloves and masks. Photo / Cliff Joiner

An MBIE spokesperson told the Herald is a business considered an essential business, it must operate in a way that minimises the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Businesses should:

• Minimise, or eliminate if possible, physical interactions among staff and with and between customers.
• Ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place.
• Restrict activity to only what is essential during the alert level 4 period.

"A number of essential businesses have put measures in place to limit the spread of Covid-19, and to keep staff and their customers safe," the spokesperson said.

"A business that has conditions of entry must make those conditions clear to customers."

According to the Ministry of Health and experts, people do not need to wear masks and gloves unless they are unwell.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Infectious diseases expert Dr Siouxsie Wiles told the Herald that the masks are useful to those who are sick so they can stop the virus from spreading.

"If you wear a mask, it won't protect you from the virus [but] it will stop somebody who is coughing and sneezing from spreading the big particles that will have the virus," she said.

"The mask people are running out to buy and spending a stupid amount of money for what is a surgical mask.

"It is for surgeons to make sure they are not spitting on their patients or dropping anything onto them.

"It's not very good at blocking viruses coming in."

Dr Siouxsie Wiles took to Facebook live to answer all of your pandemic questions. Video / Aotearoa Science Agency

However, top epidemiologist Ben Cowling in Hong Kong told RNZ it is safer for people to wear surgical masks if they are available.

There was mixed evidence, but most indications were that surgical masks would have some benefits, and even an improvised cloth mask was likely to be better than nothing, although the US Centers for Disease Control was looking into this, he told RNZ.

"There's a good chance that wearing a mask will have some effect but I don't think it will stop transmission," Cowling said.

New Zealand's Ministry of Health says it is keeping a close watch on a review by US authorities into whether wide use of masks could reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Can store owners legally refuse customers' entry?

According to New Zealand's community law website, under the Trespass Act, stores are considered private property, therefore owners and managers can refuse customer's entry or can ask people you to leave once they are inside, so long as they don't breach the anti-discrimination laws in doing this.

"While you're in the shop or after you've left, the shop can warn you to stay out of the shop, if they have good reason to think you're likely to come back. The warning doesn't have to be in writing," it reads.

Focus: Shoppers rush to their local supermarkets after the government raised the coronavirus alert status to level three. Video / Supplied

"If you then go back into the shop within the next two years after the warning, this is a criminal offence [as you are trespassing].

"The courts can also give you a warning to stay out of the shop if you're convicted of trespassing, and the same two-year ban will apply.

"If you commit any of those trespass offences, you can be fined up to $1000 or jailed for up to three months."