Boris Johnson has announced updated rules on wearing a face covering in England, warning that the regulation “will become enforceable in law” from 8 August.
At present, people in England are required to wear a face covering in shops and supermarkets, as well as on public transport.
However, this will soon be extended “to other indoor settings where you’re likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship”, the prime minister announced on Friday 31 July.
“We now recommend face coverings are worn in these settings and this will become enforceable in law from the 8 August,” he said.
There has been widespread criticism of the government’s messaging over face coverings and confusion as to exactly where people should be wearing them.
A number of officials have made contradictory statements about what constitutes a shop under the guidelines, specifically regarding the rules for takeaway food and drink outlets.
In July, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “You do need to wear a face mask in Pret because Pret is a shop. If there’s table service, it is not necessary to have a mask.”
He added: “But in any shop, you do need a mask. So, if you’re going up to the counter in Pret to buy takeaway that is a shop.”
But the prime minister’s official spokesperson later said sandwich shops were exempt.
“My understanding is that it wouldn’t be mandatory if you went in, for example, to a sandwich shop in order to get a takeaway to wear a face covering,” the spokesperson said. “We are talking about supermarkets and other shops rather than food shops.”
So, where exactly should you be wearing a face mask? Here is everything you need to know.
Coffee shops and takeaways
People need to wear a face covering in coffee shops in England under new regulations, which came into effect on 24 July.
The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed face coverings will be needed in shops such as Pret a Manger if people intend to take their food and coffee away.
However, if they sit down to eat or drink, they will be able to remove their face covering in that area. Takeaway outlets will also fall under the same criteria.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “From Friday 24 July, it will be mandatory to wear a face covering in shops and supermarkets, as is currently the case on public transport.
“If a shop or supermarket has a cafe or a seating area to eat and drink, you can remove your face covering in that area.”
Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis clarified the statement during an appearance on the BBC’s Breakfast programme, saying people will have to wear masks in a takeaway outlet, depending on why you’re going in there.
“The differences that people may not have been aware of, and will be outlined in the regulations today, is if you are going into a takeaway and you are eating in somewhere that’s got a takeaway, then that is like hospitality – you are eating, it’s not practical to wear a face mask, we recognise that,” he said.
“But if you are going in to buy a product and leaving again, then you are treating it like a shop and you should be wearing a face mask.”
The supermarket also counts as one of the places where the government is enforcing the new rule.
Since the start of the lockdown, supermarkets have been implementing safety measures in-store as well as changing online delivery rules to keep the process as safe as possible.
However, while the government has advised people to wear face coverings in spaces where social distancing is difficult, it has not been compulsory.
In a statement shared on Twitter, Waitrose said: “We’re asking customers in our English and Scottish stores to wear a face covering while shopping. All customers – apart from children under 11 and those with disabilities or breathing difficulties – should wear a face mask, scarf or other covering.”
Tesco has also confirmed that its customers will be required to wear face masks, writing on Twitter: “To help keep you and our colleagues safe in-store and reflect the latest government guidance, customers will be required to wear face coverings while shopping from Friday, 24 July. Face coverings will be available to purchase in-store and online (while stocks last).”
Retail outlets and shopping centres
Face masks are also compulsory in all retail shops and enclosed shopping centres.
During a speech in the House of Commons, Mr Hancock said the new rules were being introduced to “give people more confidence to shop safely, and enhance protections for those who work in shops”.
“The British Retail Consortium has said that together with other social distancing measures, face coverings can make shoppers feel even more confident about returning to the high street,” he said. “And the chair of the Federation of Small Businesses has said that small firms know that mandatory face coverings have a part to play, and I quote, ‘in the nation’s recovery both physically and financially’.”
Banks and post offices
Banks and post offices are also included in the government’s new guidelines.
When asked if people should cover their faces if they are going into a bank, Mr Lewis said: “Yes… it’s all retail outlets and retail banks on our high streets are retail outlets effectively as well.
“And what you’re doing when you are in a bank, if you’re going in there to pay money in or withdraw money, you’re going in there in the same way as you’re going into a shop to buy a sandwich, or a book or some clothes.
“Therefore it is appropriate that you should be wearing a face mask.”
Since 15 June, anyone travelling by bus, train, ferry or plane in England has been required to wear a face covering.
People can be refused travel if they don’t follow the rules, and can be fined as a last resort.
The public transport regulations exclude cruise ships, school transport, taxis and private hire vehicles. However, ride-sharing company Uber has made face coverings compulsory.
It is also compulsory to wear face coverings on all public transport in Scotland – and Wales will be introducing the rule from 27 July.
The wearing of face coverings on buses, trains and ferries became mandatory in Northern Ireland on 10 July.
Cinemas, galleries, museums and places of worship
Previously, members of the public in England did not have to wear face coverings in indoor areas such as cinemas and museums.
However, following a rise in cases, they will now have to.
On 31 July, the prime minister confirmed that it will become enforceable by law from 8 August for people to wear face masks in indoor spaces where they are likely to come into contact with people they do not usually meet.
This will include cinemas, galleries, museums and places of worship.
Who is exempt from wearing a face mask?
The same exemptions as for public transport will apply under the updated guidelines, with children under 11 and people with breathing problems not required to wear a covering.
Anyone who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability is also exempt.
Under the new rules, the below groups are not required to wear a mask:
- A child under the age of 11
- An employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
- A constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
- An emergency response member of staff, such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
- An official such as a border force officer, acting in the course of their duty
- If you are onboard public transport but remain in your own vehicle, such as a car ferry
Other exemptions listed include those with a disability or a physical or mental illness, and anyone travelling with a deaf person who relies on lip-reading to communicate.
Customers in shops will also be allowed to remove them if they are required to present identification for purchasing alcohol and other age-restricted products.
What happens if you don’t wear a mask?
Those who refuse to comply can be hit with a fine of up to £100. This will be reduced to £50 if people pay within 14 days.
The rules will be enforced by the police, not shop workers who should instead “encourage compliance”, officials have said.
However, Metropolitan Police chief Dame Cressida Dick has said officers will only enforce the wearing of masks in shops “as a last resort”, adding that she hopes people will be “shamed” into using face coverings rather than having to be fined.