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Explained: Where you will have to wear a face mask in England from Friday

Masks will be compulsory in shops and supermarkets from Friday (PA)

4 min read

Face coverings will become compulsory in all shops and supermarkets from Friday 24 July, as well as other spaces like banks and train stations. Here’s what’s in the latest guidance from the Government on where you should be donning a mask.

Where do I have to wear a face mask?

Since 15 June, it has been mandatory to wear a face mask or covering on public transport in England. This includes trains, buses, ferries, and aircraft.

From 24 July, you will have to wear a face covering in shops, supermarkets, banks and post offices in England. Enclosed shopping centres and transport hubs are also included.

Under the new legislation, a shop is any indoor space which is open to the public and is used mainly for the sale or hire of goods or services. Meanwhile transport hubs include all train stations, bus terminals, ferry ports, airports or similar.

But you do not have to wear a face covering in restaurants and pubs, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres, cinemas, concert halls and theatres. Museums, dentists and opticians are also exempt, though masks are currently required in all NHS hospitals. 

If you are buying food or drink for takeaway, you must wear a mask when visiting the store. However, if the premises has seating intended for the consumption of food and drink, you may remove your mask to eat there.

These new rules also do not extend to non-public spaces such as stock rooms and staff areas - though separate guidance does require employers to ensure these areas are Covid-secure.

Official guidance published in May advised people to wear face coverings in any enclosed public spaces where they may come into contact with people they wouldn’t usually meet.

Who is exempt from wearing a face mask?

Children under the age of 11 and those with medical conditions that could be affected by the wearing of a covering are exempt from this rule. People with disabilities are also exempt, as well as those accompanying somebody who relies on lip ready.

Shop and transport employees are also not required to wear a mask while they are “acting in the course of their employment”. Relevant officials, such as police officers, border force officers, emergency services and safety inspectors are also exempt while they are carrying out their duties. 

Individuals who are travelling or visiting a store to protect their safety, such as domestic violence victims, are also exempt, but only if they do not have a mask with them. 

Coverings can also be removed to avoid harm or injury, take medication, verify their identity or at the request of a police officer. 

What counts as a face covering and where can I get one? 

A face covering is a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth. The Government recommends that surgical grade masks are not used to ensure supply to frontline workers.

Public Health England has issued advice on how to make and wear a cloth face covering out of a scarf, bandana or similar. Various face coverings are also widely available in many retailers and online. 

People wearing face coverings are still strongly advised to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before putting one on or taking it off, avoid taking it off and putting it back on again a lot in quick succession, store it in a plastic bag in between washes or wearing, and avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth while wearing one.

How will the new rules be enforced?

Failure to wear a face covering can result in a £100 fine, reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days. And, you can be refused travel or access to an establishment if you are not wearing one. 

Police are responsible for enforcing the rule rather than employees, and the onus will be on the individual to ensure they are following the rules. Guidance is set to be issued to police forces once details of the new legislation are established.

The Department of Health and Social Care has said that police will “engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce as a last resort”.

Businesses are encouraged to take reasonable steps to encourage customers to follow the law, including through signs and providing other information in store.

Pressed on this on Thursday, a Number 10 spokesperson said: “What I’m sure we’ll find as we have with other aspects of the coronavirus response is that the British public will voluntarily choose to follow the guidelines because they want to play their part in helping to slow the spread of the virus."

They added: “The public have made a huge contribution to that effort so far and I’m sure that will continue.

“Enforcement will be treated as a last resort but police will have the power to issue fines of up to £100 if that’s required.”

How long will these new rules be in place?

Simply, we don’t know.

When the Government was asked what the criteria would be for ending compulsory face covering in certain spaces, they said “it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period”.

No date has been given for when these rules will expire.

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