Face coverings are made compulsory in shops
Fri, 17 Jul 2020
Shoppers will be required to wear face coverings from July 24 - and there will be £100 fines for those who refuse.
Since May 11, Government guidance in England has advised the public to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, where they may come into contact with people they wouldn’t usually meet. These can include shops and public transport.
The use of face coverings became mandatory on public transport in England from June 15.
Scientific evidence suggests face coverings help prevent you from passing coronavirus on to other people if you are sick.
It does not protect you from breathing in the virus unless it is a full-blown piece of medical PPE - something which is not recommended.
If you have symptoms, you should be self-isolating at home, but many people get Covid-19 without symptoms and can spread it rapidly.
One SAGE member suggested the virus can linger potent in the air for an hour after being breathed out in an indoor, badly-ventilated space.
The UK Government initially feared the added risk of handling and fiddling with a face mask could outweigh the benefits. But it has performed a U-turn. Face coverings are not, however, a substitute for social distancing - you should do both.
Are there any exemptions?
Yes. As with public transport, children under 11 will not have to wear a face covering.
Those who can't affix a face covering without suffering severe distress, or who have difficulty using it due to a physical or mental disability, are also exempt.
It is thought other exemptions will follow the list already used on public transport.
These exceptions include anyone who is being relied on by a deaf person for lipreading, police or public transport staff, emergency responders, or people while they are taking medication.
Sources suggest there will also be some types of shop that are exempt from the blanket policy.
Will it be the law or just 'guidance'?
It will be the law. Regulations will be made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 - the same law used as the basis for many lockdown restrictions.
Is it a mask or just a 'covering'?
The law will define a face "covering". This is not a surgical mask and can be a piece of cloth. It must however cover your nose and mouth.
The Government has a guide to making your own, or they can be bought relatively cheaply from many shops or online.
How much can I be fined?
Those caught by police contravening the law will be fined £100, reducing to £50 if paid within 14 days.
Unlike previous lockdown laws, this £100 fine will not double on each repeat offence. It remains fixed at £100 each time.
Can I be arrested if I don't agree?
It's not yet clear, but it seems possible.
Government sources stressed the punishment will be a £100 fine, but added the law will be similar to that used on public transport.
On public transport, those who obstruct or ignore orders from police "without reasonable excuse" commit an offence and can be prosecuted.
Will shop assistants have to enforce the law?
Enforcement will be carried out by the police. Downing Street said that while shop employees should encourage compliance, retailers and businesses will not be expected to enforce the policy.
It is not yet clear if police will be expected to patrol supermarkets. When lockdown was first introduced, some officers threatened to check people's shopping for "non-essential" items, prompting outrage.
Who is exempt from wearing face coverings?
Following the announcement that face coverings were to become mandatory on public transport in England, guidelines were released outlining individuals who were exempt from the rule.
These included children under the age of 11; people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering without experiencing “severe distress”; individuals with physical or mental disabilities who may have an issue with wearing a face coverings; people who communicate with others through lip-reading; those who are “travelling to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and do not have a face covering with them”; and individuals who need to remove their face coverings while taking medication. To eat and drink, but only if you need to. If a police officer or other official asks you to remove it.
When face coverings become obligatory in shops in England, similar rules will apply, with children under the age of 11, people with certain disabilities and individuals with breathing conditions not required to follow the regulation.