Your questions answered on the the ins and outs of face coverings.
Q. What legislation are you using to make face coverings mandatory in shops and supermarkets?
A. Regulations will be made under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984.
Q. Does a new law need to be passed through Parliament?
A. No. Existing regulations are being updated.
Q. Are there any exemptions to these regulations?
A. Yes, there are exemptions for those who are unable to wear a face covering due to age, health, disability, and other reasons.
Shops, Supermarkets and other indoor settings
Q. Where does this apply to?
A. You must wear a face covering that covers your mouth and nose in all shops, supermarkets, enclosed shopping centres, banks, post offices and food to go places.
· This does not apply to restaurants which provide table service to customers, bars or pubs, or areas of such shops and shopping centres which are provided for the consumption of food and drink.
· You must also wear a face covering when in a public transport hub, such as a train station, bus station or airport.
· There are exemptions for those who are unable to wear a face covering due to age, health, disability, and other reasons.
Q. Does this apply to shopping centres?
A. Yes. You must wear a face covering when in an enclosed shopping centre if you are not exempt. You can remove this when in an area designated for the consumption of food and drink (for example a food court) but must put it back on when you are not in a food or drink area.
Q. What about mixed use settings, such as a supermarket with a café?
A. You must wear a face covering in all shops and supermarkets. If you are purchasing food or drink in one of these settings, you can remove your face covering if the setting allows for you to eat or drink in the food/café area.
Q. Does this apply to food-to-go establishments or cafés that do not provide table service?
A. Yes. You must wear a face covering when in these premises.
· However, if the establishment has a seated area provided for the consumption of food or drink then you can remove your face covering whilst in this area, but must put it back on when you are not.
Q. Does the requirement to wear a face covering apply to me if I am a delivery driver collecting food for delivery from a café or food-to-go establishment?
A. No, you do not need to wear a face covering if you are collecting food for delivery as part of a professional service provided to the establishment.
Q. Does this apply to me if I am queuing to purchase food or drink in a food-to-go establishment that has a seated area?
A. Yes. You will need to wear a face covering while queuing to purchase food or drink in a food-to-go establishment.
Q. Can shops and supermarkets refuse entry to anyone not wearing a face covering?
· In the first instance, shops and supermarkets should not simply refuse entry to someone not wearing a face covering. They may ask someone to wear a face covering, keeping in mind that some people are exempt from wearing a face covering and will therefore be unable to wear one.
· We are expecting everyone, staff and customers, to act reasonably. If someone is exempt from the Regulations, they may wish to tell staff they are exempt. We do not advise employees to question customers on the nature of their exemption.
· Shops can refuse entry to anyone who does not have a valid exemption. As is usual practice, if a customer is acting anti-socially or against the rules, staff will be able to call the police.
Q. What should shops and supermarkets do if someone takes a face covering off when inside?
A. Face coverings should be worn for the duration of time spent inside the shop or supermarket.
· We expect staff to use their discretion and for there to be reasonable judgement applied where a customer removes a face covering in store, for example to avoid risk of harm to themselves or in a medical emergency.
· However, we ask people to follow the advice on using face coverings closely, which is to wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on and after taking it off. People should try to avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth and store used face coverings in a plastic bag until they have an opportunity to wash them.
· If a member of the public removes a face covering without a reasonable excuse, or if a customer is acting anti-socially or against the rules, staff will be able to ask you to leave, and call the police.
Q. Do employees of shops and supermarkets have to wear face coverings?
A. It is not compulsory for shop or supermarket staff to wear face coverings, although we strongly recommend that employers consider their use where appropriate, and where other mitigations are not in place
· Businesses are already subject to legal obligations to protect their staff under existing legislation. This includes taking appropriate steps to provide a safe working environment, which may include providing face coverings where appropriate, alongside other mitigation such as perspex screens to separate workers from the public.
Q. Why does this not apply to pubs and restaurants?
A. It would be impractical to wear a face covering in these settings, where people are sitting to eat and drink.
· There is also an increased risk of transmission if face coverings are left on surfaces.
· These places may also already have additional measures in place to reduce risk, such as protective screens and social distancing.
Q. Why is it just shops and trains?
A. We're mandating the wearing of masks in shops, supermarkets, and enclosed shopping centres, as these are enclosed places freely accessed by the public and are used by most people most often.
· But we're keeping the situation under review and will take further action if needed.
· Since 11 May, we have advised people to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces where they cannot easily social distance and come into contact with people they do not normally meet.
Q. What about banks / post offices etc?
A. You must wear a face covering when in a bank or post office.
· You can be asked to remove your face covering for identification purposes. The current guidance says:
If you can, you should also wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing isn't possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas. You should be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so by police officers and staff for the purposes of identification.
Q. What about wearing masks to hairdressers, beauty salons etc?
A. These places will already have extensive measures in place to reduce risk, such as hand sanitiser, screens and social distancing.
· But, as I said, we are keeping the situation under review and will take further action if needed.
Q. What about museums / galleries / theatres / cinemas?
A. We are only mandating the wearing of face coverings in shops and supermarkets, but are keeping the situation under review and will take further action if needed.
Q. What about gyms / pools?
A. This will not apply to gyms and swimming pools where it would be impractical to wear a covering.
· There is also a risk of increased transmission if face coverings are left on surfaces.
Q. Why have you not extended this to other settings?
A. Different indoor settings have different needs. For example, [insert relevant information for setting from below]
Hairdressers & close contact services
Rationale for exemption despite being an 'enclosed public space': Face coverings are worn over the head or ears so cannot be worn when getting a haircut. Hairdressers and close contact services are also requested to wear visors, adding the necessary protection for client and employee.
Restaurants & Pubs
Rationale for exemption despite being an 'enclosed public space': Face coverings cannot be worn while eating or drinking and there is a risk of transmission if face coverings are left on surfaces.
Schools & classrooms
Rationale for exemption despite being an 'enclosed public space': We are proactively discouraging this. Achieving compliance is difficult, they create communication barriers to learning, and increase risk of transmission if not disposed of properly or left on surfaces.
Cinemas, Concert Halls & Theatres
Rationale for exemption despite being an 'enclosed public space': Food and drink are consumed in these venues as part of entertainment, are seated, and have other mitigations in place.
Gyms & leisure centres
Rationale for exemption despite being an 'enclosed public space': Impractical and unsafe as can cause respiratory problems during exercise.
Rationale for exemption despite being an 'enclosed public space': Security and wellbeing.
Hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies
Rationale for exemption despite being an 'enclosed public space': Guidance for hospitals, primary care settings such as GP surgeries, and pharmacies, currently says you should wear a face covering, although there is no legal requirement for this. As each of these settings have different risks and alternative measures can be put in place, for example screens in pharmacies, and telephone consultations with a GP, it would be beneficial to allow health professionals to give advice appropriate to each setting, rather than a blanket legislative requirement.
Rationale for exemption despite being an 'enclosed public space': A range of other examples could be cited for which mandating is not recommended but face coverings should be advised: PoW, community centres, job centres, public buildings (courts, libraries), arcades, etc.