LESS than a fifth of high street shoppers in Swindon are wearing face masks – despite a poll which shows almost 75 per cent of Adver readers think they are a must.

Our reporter spent half-an-hour on the busy stretch opposite HMV on Fleet Street on Monday and counted 544 people. Of those only 87 – less than 20 per cent – were wearing a face covering.

Current government guidelines say facial coverings should be worn on public transport and in enclosed spaces. Whether shops are classed as enclosed spaces is open to interpretation.

It was a similar trend at two of the town centre’s busiest fashion stores.

At Primark, eight of the 40 people counted coming out of the store in a 10-minute period were wearing masks. At H&M, the proportion was higher at 11 out of 30.

In a poll on the Adver's website, 46 per cent out of the 1,345 votes said masks should be worn by shoppers, with a further 27 per cent stating one should definitely be worn inside a shop.

The remaining 27 per cent of readers who voted said masks are not necessary.

Swindon Borough Council's cabinet member for the town centre Dale Heenan believes social distancing is more important than wearing masks – and says it is up to each shop to enforce its own policy.

He said: “I think the key thing is that people are social distancing and following the advice of government.

“It is down to the businesses themselves how they wish to approach these things.

“I have a mask myself but I haven’t used it very often.

"I’ve been trying to distance myself even more than two metres and I’m fortunate to be able to do that.”

And for people who might be worried about the lack of face coverings, Coun Heenan added: “If you’re concerned, wear a mask yourself until you are comfortable in not.

“Try and stay away from large crowds or people not wearing that. So long as you maintain social distancing, that is the key thing.

“And good hygiene, such as washing your hands.”

On Facebook, reader Jamie Curwen said: “Social distancing and hand washing is the best thing to do. Face coverings are optional unless on public transport.”