Since the outbreak of COVID-19, rules regarding face masks have become tighter to contain the virus to the point where you must wear a mask in some areas by law. The rules underlining where and when to wear a face mask vary across the UK, however, the general rule is that face masks should be worn when in indoor settings.
This information is accurate as of 5th October 2020. Please bear in mind that rules regarding face coverings are continually being reviewed by the UK government to ensure public safety.
Where Must You Wear a Face Mask?
As mentioned, rules regarding where you need to wear a face mask may vary across different parts of the UK and you can find out about the laws on face masks in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales at GOV.UK. Here is a list of areas you must wear a face mask in England:
Unless you are exempt from wearing a mask, you must wear a face mask when travelling on public transport. If you do not wear a mask, you may be refused travel or in some instances, receive a fine.
You must wear a face mask in supermarkets, shops and whenever you are inside shopping centres across the UK. Unless you are exempt, you may be fined for refusing to do so. You may also notice that some shop workers will be wearing masks whilst others may not – this will vary between stores depending on whether staff members will be close to customers. For example, if there are screens at checkout points, this wall of protection may be sufficient in keeping both staff and customers safe.
Indoor public areas
Generally, if you are inside a public space, you will be required to wear a mask. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Places of worship
- Exhibition halls, galleries and museums
- Community centres and social clubs
- Tattoo parlours
There are many more indoor settings where a mask will be required, so you need to check the requirements beforehand.
Outdoor public areas
It is important to note that there are also some outdoor areas where facial coverings are required, such as transport hubs and sports stadiums. Remember to check the guidelines for the venue beforehand, or carry a mask with you just in case.
When Should Children Wear Face Masks?
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that children over 11 years of age should follow the same guidelines as adults, wearing a mask when in indoor spaces (such as supermarkets, hairdressers and shops). This came into effect on the 8th of August 2020 and is particularly important to follow when children are in areas where social distancing is difficult. Children under the age of 11 do not need to wear a face mask.
Do Face Masks Work?
GOV.UK, in line with the science, has established that face coverings help prevent the spread of COVID-19, as they cover the nose and mouth – which appear to be the main areas that the virus can be transmitted; this is because droplets can be spread into the air by those infected with the virus when they sneeze or cough.
When Don’t You Need to Wear a Face Mask?
The rules regarding when it is necessary to wear a face mask can be confusing as some indoor settings do not require you to wear a face mask. That said, laws surrounding facial coverings are always being reviewed, so it is important to do your research beforehand to keep yourself and others safe. Here is a list of some areas and situations where face masks currently do not have to be worn:
Pubs and restaurants
The rules are different for pubs and restaurants, as wearing a mask would prevent people from eating and drinking comfortably. Whilst face coverings are not required in pubs and restaurants that are providing table service, you may be required to wear a face-covering when ordering food at the bar/till. For example, if you go into a restaurant, you must wear a face-covering whilst ordering and waiting for your order, but may remove it once seated.
As it stands, the government is not recommending that face coverings should be worn in schools due to measures that are already in place. That said, secondary schools may choose to require students to wear facial coverings when in high traffic, communal areas where social distancing is difficult to adhere to.
There are, however, instances where students will need to wear a mask, including:
- When travelling on a school bus or public transport
- If a local area is in lockdown, students in England will need to wear a mask in communal areas
Please note, this is not the case for schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where students in secondary schools must wear a face mask between their lessons. There are also different rules regarding the age a child must be to wear a mask on school buses. Find out more at GOV.UK here.
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