Coronavirus: Face coverings

Evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has confirmed face coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission if you are suffering from coronavirus, but not showing symptoms. 

The government requires face coverings to be worn in more places, especially where social distancing is difficult. 

Public transport

Wearing face coverings is now a requirement of using public transport. Bus, coach, train, tram, ferry and aircraft passengers must wear a face covering on their journey to help reduce the risk of transmission when social distancing is not always possible - with the government also working with operators to ensure staff are provided with face coverings where appropriate.

In hospital

Everyone working in all areas of the hospital is now expected to wear a face mask, and members of the public are strongly urged to attend hospital wearing a face covering, but a face mask will be provided in emergencies.

In shops and other retail outlets

As well as shops and supermarkets, face coverings must be worn in takeaways, banks, building societies and post offices.

Other premises:

The requirement to wear a face-covering to other indoor settings where you are likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship. This will be enforced from 8th August. 

If I wear a face-covering do I not need to stay socially distant?

Face coverings do not replace social distancing. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, and/or high temperature, and/or 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.

What is the difference between a face covering and mask?

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.

Making a face covering at home

Click here to find out how

Who is exempt from wearing a covering? 

There are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, whereby people are not expected to wear face coverings in these settings. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings.

It is not compulsory for shop or supermarket staff to wear face coverings, although employers should consider recommending their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place. For example, there will be times when screens or visors are in use, or when a staff member is not in close proximity to people they do not normally meet, and so wearing a covering for staff will not be necessary. 

You do not need to wear a face-covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:

  • young children under the age of 11
  • not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip-reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face-covering with you
  • to eat or drink, but only if you need to
  • to take medication
  • if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

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

  • If asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification
  • If speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication

What happens to those who don't follow the rules?

Anyone who doesn’t abide by the regulations – and is not exempt under one of the categories set out in the regulations – could face a fine by the police of up to £100, as is currently the case on public transport. The police have been very clear throughout the pandemic that they will “engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce as a last resort”.