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Face coverings now compulsory on public transport & most indoor spaces in England.


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Even though it is now compulsory not everyone can wear one. Be mindful not to challenge anyone as not all disabilities or health conditions are visible.

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This information relates to the use of face coverings in public spaces where social distancing is not always possible. It is important to follow all the other government advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) including staying safe outside your home.

What a face covering is

In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.

Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment) which is used in a limited number of settings to protect wearers against hazards and risks, such as surgical masks or respirators used in medical and industrial settings.

Face coverings are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).

If you wish to find out more about the differences between surgical face masks, PPE face masks, and face coverings see the MHRA’s (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) regulatory status of equipment being used to help prevent coronavirus (COVID-19).

When to wear a face covering

In England, you must wear a face covering in the following indoor settings (a list of examples for each is included in the brackets):

public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses)

transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)

shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)

shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)

auction houses

premises providing professional, legal or financial services (post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses)

premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)

premises providing veterinary services

visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, funfairs, theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)

libraries and public reading rooms

places of worship

funeral service providers (funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels)

community centres, youth centres and social clubs

exhibition halls and conference centres

public areas in hotels and hostels

storage and distribution facilities

You are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it. More detailed advice on the application of these requirements in different settings can be found in the Government’s guidance for working safely.

You should also wear a face covering in indoor places not listed here where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

Face coverings are needed in NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries. They are also advised to be worn in care homes.

Enforcement measures for failing to comply with this law

Premises where face coverings are required should take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law.

The police can take measures if members of the public do not comply with this law without a valid exemption and transport operators can deny access to their public transport services if a passenger is not wearing a face covering, or direct them to wear one or leave a service.

If necessary, the police and Transport for London (TfL) officers have enforcement powers including issuing fines of £100 (halving to £50 if paid within 14 days). As announced we will bring forward changes which mean fines for repeat offenders will double at each offence, up to a maximum value of £3,200.

Cont..

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When you do not need to wear a face covering

In settings where face coverings are required in England, there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings, and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

This includes (but is not limited to):

children under the age of 11 (Public Health England do not recommended face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)

people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability

employees of indoor settings (or people acting on their behalf, such as someone leading part of a prayer service) or transport workers (see section 6) - although employers may consider their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidelines

police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public

where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress

if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate

to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others - including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity

There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering:

if asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification

if asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, for assessing health recommendations (e.g. by a pharmacist), or for age identification purposes including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol

if required in order to receive treatment or services, for example when getting a haircut

in order to take medication

if you are delivering a sermon or prayer in a place or worship

if you are the persons getting married in a relevant place

if you are undertaking exercise or an activity and it would negatively impact your ability to do so

Face coverings are not required in restaurants with table service, bars, and pubs. If removing your face covering to eat or drink in an indoor premises with a café or designated seating area, then you can remove your face covering in this area only.

Face coverings are not required in restaurants with table service, bars, and pubs. If other indoor premises have a café or seating area for you to eat and drink, then you can remove your face covering in this area only. You must put a face covering back on once you leave your seating area. If removing your face covering to eat or drink in an indoor premises with a café or designated seating area, then you can remove your face covering in this area only.

The government’s guidance for keeping workers and customers safe during COVID-19 in restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services clearly advises that designated indoor seating areas for customers to eat or drink should at this time only be open for table service, where possible, alongside additional infection control measures.

Exemption cards

Those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this, this includes exemption cards. No person needs to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about their reason for not wearing a face covering.

Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

This is a personal choice and is not necessary in law.

Access exemption card templates

For exemptions in different parts of the UK please refer to the specific guidance for Northern IrelandScotland and Wales.

The reason for using face coverings

Coronavirus (COVID-19) usually spreads by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, if you touch a surface and then your face without washing your hands first. This is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes is so important in controlling the spread of the virus.

The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.

Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing. It is important to follow all the other government advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) including staying safe outside your home. If you have recent onset of any of the most important symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19):

a new continuous cough

a high temperature

a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

you and your household must isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this. You should arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.

How to wear a face covering

A face covering should:

cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably

fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face

be secured to the head with ties or ear loops

be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton

ideally include at least two layers of fabric (the World Health Organisation recommends three depending on the fabric used)

unless disposable, it should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged

When wearing a face covering you should:

wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on

avoid wearing on your neck or forehead

avoid touching the part of the face covering in contact with your mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus

change the face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it

avoid taking it off and putting it back on a lot in quick succession (for example, when leaving and entering shops on a high street)

When removing a face covering:

wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before removing

only handle the straps, ties or clips

do not give it to someone else to use

if single-use, dispose of it carefully in a residual waste bin and do not recycle

if reusable, wash it in line with manufacturer’s instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric

wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser once removed.

Full details and other links on the government website can be found HERE

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