Masks and face coverings are now mandatory in England as of today Friday 24th of July. According to the new law, you face getting a £100 fine if you do not adhere to wearing a mask in shops and enclosed spaces.
Masks and Face coverings are mandatory in places including supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, transport hubs, banks, post offices and in some public enclosed space. If you’re not aware of the new rules, you can find more information on gov.uk and I’ve explored some of the rules in this article.
The police will be able to enforce this new rule and will be able to remove customers from shops with the use of force if they do not follow this guidance. However, you can take them off in a seating area. I imagine it must be difficult to eat with your mask on.
What is a face covering?
It is important to note that it doesn’t have to be a mask. The term used is a face covering so what is a face covering?
This is anything that sufficiently covers a person’s mouth and nose to help prevent the spread of the virus. Covid-19 to be specific. This means you don’t necessarily need to have a mask, but you can make your own at home.
According to Public Health England (PHE), a face-covering could be a homemade fabric covering or mask scarf, bandana, or surgical mask. Materials such as pillowcases, individuals have utilized old fabric and the likes to make stylish face coverings.
Where are face coverings or masks mandatory?
Enclosed spaces such as:
- shops including banks and post offices
- shopping centres excluding sit down areas for food and drink services
- Public transport including trains, buses, taxis
- Transport hubs including airports and train hubs or stations – excluding any area with sit down food services
- Takeaway shops or cafes, if you’re not staying in to eat or there are no table services
This applies to all regions of the UK in situations where keeping a sensible social distance from others is not possible.
Where are face coverings or masks NOT mandatory?
Masks are not mandatory in these locations:
- Pubs, restaurants or eat-in with sit down areas
- Hairdressers and salons
- Leisure centres and gyms
- Museums and other attractions alike
- Eat-in restaurants and Cafes
- Cinemas, concert halls and theatres
- Chiropody, Chiropractic, or other medical services
The confusion in where it is mandatory to wear a face covering is evident in parliament as some MPs contradict each other in how these rules are applied. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality said the information from the government was contradictory and “very late in the day” for the guidance to be confirmed.
Employers and businesses have also been advised to wear a mask or enforce the rules on customers entering their businesses for their own safety.
It is now illegal to board public transport without a face covering. It is now advised that individuals should wear a face covering when using public services such as buses, taxis, or private hire vehicles where they’re in contact with other people in an enclosed space. Drivers may refuse to accept passengers who do not follow the rule.
Face coverings are also advised in all clinical settings including care homes. However, it is down to the company that runs them or the NHS to enforce the rules.
You are also allowed to take off your mask when communicating with those who rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate.
Exemptions on the use of face covering
Children under the age of 11 are exempt, including those with health conditions, including respiratory impairments and those with disabilities that make it difficult for them to use face coverings. This means they will NOT be required to wear a mask or face-covering.
Despite this new “mandatory rules”, some shops including Asda and Sainsbury’s have said they will not be enforcing the rules on customers who enter their stores. Asda stated it is the “responsibility of the relevant authorities” to enforce the rules.
List of those NOT required to wear a mask or face covering
- Those with breathing difficulties or respiratory disorders
- Children under the age of 11
- Learning difficulties such as autism
- Mental health conditions such as a panic disorder or anxiety
- Dexterity condition which means those unable to put on a mask
- Those with visual impairments
- Conditions that cause pain which means putting on a mask will be too painful
- Cognitive impairments where patients may have forgotten to wear or carry a mask or facial covering
This also includes situations where wearing a face covering may prevent you from performing tasks or communicating adequately
- If an emergency worker asks you to take it off
- When you are eating or drinking (except in public transport)
- If you need to take medication
- When you need to escape injury or harm to yourself or others around
Repercussions of NOT wearing a face covering
A fine of £100 can be issued if you fail to comply with wearing a mask or face covering in a location or environment where it has been made mandatory.
The police have said they will use force as a last resort after engaging, explaining, and encouraging to use a mask or face covering. It is also down to the British Transport Police to enforce fines on public transport and other forces depending on the location.
Making your own face covering
It is advised to take care when making your own face covering or mask. Different materials and fabrics may cause irritation to the skin and discomfort. This could also awaken skin conditions such as acne. There are countless instructions online and on YouTube on how to make your own face covering. Here’s an example from GOV.UK: How to make a cloth face covering
Maintaining face coverings and masks
Using thicker fabrics or multiple layers may reduce the risk of transmitting the particles. However, face-covering should still be breathable. As much as we are using face covering, it is important that we maintain and dispose of face coverings adequately.
Some recommended steps and measures from gov.uk for maintaining and disposing of face coverings:
- Once removed, store reusable face covering or mask in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them
- If it’s a single-use mask, dispose of it in a residual waste bin. Do not put in a recycling bin.
- Do not touch the front of the covering or mask or any part that has been in contact with your mouth and nose
- Clean any surface the mask or face covering has touched using normal household cleaning products. If in public such as a restaurant, you mustn’t place it on the table
- Wash your face covering or reusable mask regularly. You can wash and dry with other laundry and throw it away if it gets damaged.
Some more guidance: Disposing of Face coverings
When does this end?
The law will be renewed after 28 sittings of parliament. This could mean 2 or 3 months.
The law expires on July 24, 2021, unless it is revoked at an earlier date. Until then, we are now required to wear a face-covering or masks as described above.
For more information, check out the official government publication on the guidance on this new law. Face coverings: when to wear one and how to make your own on gov.uk.