Thursday 22 February 2024
10.1 C
Nottingham

Covid: Face coverings required by law from today – see when and where you have to wear one

In England, face coverings are now required by law in most indoor public places and on public transport, including taxis.

Face coverings are not required in hospitality venues where food and drink are consumed (such as pubs, cafés and restaurants), or during exercise (such as gyms), including dancing (such as nightclubs).

Where a premises or part of a premises is being used for an event where the main activities include eating, drinking and dancing, face coverings are not required. Face coverings must be worn in communal areas of the premises not being used for the event, such as in a hotel lobby when an event is taking place in a conference room.

In indoor settings where a face covering is not legally required, you should still continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet.

Some people, including children under 11, are exempt from having to wear face coverings in any setting. Furthermore, anyone with a health condition or disability, which means they cannot wear a face covering, has a reasonable excuse for not wearing a face covering.

- Advertisement -

These changes apply to England only. You can find out more about the different rules across the UK on the relevant websites of the relevant nation:

When to wear a face covering

There are some places where you must wear a face covering by law, unless you are exempt or have a reasonable excuse (see the ‘When you do not need to wear a face covering’ section below).

In England, you must wear a face covering in the following indoor settings (examples are given in brackets):

  • shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)
  • auction houses
  • post offices, banks, building societies, high street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
  • estate and letting agents
  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (barbers, hair salons, tattoo and piercing studios, nail salons and massage centres)
  • pharmacies
  • premises providing veterinary services
  • retail galleries
  • retail travel agents
  • takeaways without space for consumption of food or drink on premises
  • auction houses
  • post offices, banks, building societies, high street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
  • estate and letting agents
  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)
  • pharmacies
  • premises providing veterinary services
  • retail galleries
  • retail travel agents
  • public facing funeral offices
  • takeaways without space for consumption of food or drink on premises
  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)
  • community centres (including village halls), youth centres, members clubs and social clubs
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • polling stations and premises used for the counting of votes
  • places of worship
  • crematoria and burial ground chapels
  • visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, indoor theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, indoor areas at aquariums, zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, indoor theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
  • public areas in hotels and hostels
  • adult entertainment venues
  • indoor areas of open-air sports stadiums
  • public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams, buses, coaches and ferries), taxis and private hire vehicles
  • any car or small van during a professionally delivered driving lesson, a practical driving test, or during one of the practical tests for giving driving instruction, and in all HGV lessons and tests
  • transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • motorway service areas

Staff within these settings, except some transport workers (see the ‘Face coverings at work’ section below), and those working in premises providing legal or financial services are required to wear face coverings when they are in a part that is open to the public and when they are likely to come into close contact with members of the public, such as on a shop floor. Staff may also wear face coverings when working in settings where face coverings are not required, and businesses are encouraged to support them in doing so.

You are required to wear a face covering on entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless you are exempt or have a reasonable excuse for removing it. Examples of what would usually be a reasonable excuse are listed in the ‘If you are not able to wear a face covering’ section below.

You should continue to wear a face covering in other indoor places especially those that are crowded and enclosed and where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

Face coverings are not legally required in hospitality settings given that they cannot be worn while eating and drinking. They are also not legally required in exercise facilities including gyms, dance studios, swimming pools or leisure centres (see the ‘When you do not need to wear a face covering’ section below).

Face coverings and face masks are needed in healthcare settings to comply with infection, prevention, control (IPC) guidance. This includes hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries. They should also be worn by everyone accessing or visiting care homes.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has updated its guidance on safer travel for passengers.

The Department for Education (DfE) has updated its guidance on the use of face coverings for schools, early years settings, out of school settings, and further and higher education settings.

Enforcement measures for failing to comply with this law

Settings in which face coverings are required must display signage or take other measures to ensure customers are aware of the requirement to wear a face covering on their premises where there is no applicable exemption or reasonable excuse.

The police and police community support officers can enforce compliance if members of the public do not comply with this law without a reasonable excuse. Transport operators can deny access to their public transport services, or direct someone to wear a face covering or to leave a service, if not wearing one without a legitimate reason. Local authority enforcement officers can also use their enforcement powers against businesses for failing to display appropriate signage or breaching the prohibition against preventing someone from wearing a face covering.

If necessary, the police and Transport for London (TfL) officers have enforcement powers, including issuing fixed penalties of £200 for the first offence (reduced to £100 if paid within 14 days).

Repeat offenders receiving penalties for breaching the requirements, to wear face coverings will have their penalty doubled for each subsequent offence.

After the first offence there will be no discount. For example, a second penalty would be £400, a third £800, up to a maximum of £6,400. Any penalties issued under the 2020 regulations that were in force until earlier this year will not count towards the accumulation of fines levied under the new regulations.

When you do not need to wear a face covering

Face coverings are only legally required in the settings listed in ‘When to wear a face covering’ section above. Settings which are exempt from wearing a face covering include:

  • restaurants, cafés and canteens
  • pubs, bars and shisha bars
  • gyms and exercise facilities (including dance studios)
  • leisure centres, swimming pools, and water and aqua parks
  • photography studios
  • nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques

Customers, visitors or staff may choose to wear face coverings in these settings. Businesses cannot prevent staff, visitors or customers from wearing a face covering in these settings if they choose to wear one, and it is an offence to do so.

Face coverings are also not required in premises or a part of a premises where the main activity is eating, drinking, exercising or dancing. This might include venues being used to host wedding receptions or some music events as well as restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs. This is because it is not practical for people to wear a face covering when eating or drinking, and it is not recommended that face coverings are worn when undertaking strenuous activity, including exercising and dancing.

Some wedding or hospitality venues might ask you to wear a face covering and you may still be required to wear a face covering in parts of the premises where the main activity is not taking place.

While not mandatory, you should continue to wear a face covering in indoor places, which are crowded and enclosed and where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

Singing

There is a reasonable excuse for someone to remove a face covering when it is reasonably necessary for them to sing, for example, if they are singing as part of a choir, or during a service, rehearsal or for a performance.

This does not extend to circumstances where it is not reasonably necessary to sing. For example, it may not be reasonably necessary for someone to sing whilst shopping, on public transport, or whilst in an in-scope setting such as a cinema, theatre or library.

This change allows those who are taking part in activities where singing is reasonably necessary to choose to remove their face covering if they prefer whilst singing. When singing, you should consider keeping the face covering on.

If you are not able to wear a face covering

In settings where face coverings are required in England, there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering.

Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances. Some people are less able to wear face coverings, and the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • children under the age of 11 (The UK Health Security Agency does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
  • people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • people for whom putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress
  • people speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
  • to avoid the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
  • police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public

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

  • if asked to do so for identification in premises such as a bank, building society, or post office
  • if asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, for assessing health recommendations (for example by a pharmacist) or for age identification purposes, including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
  • in order to take medication
  • when it is reasonably necessary to sing, for example – as part of a choir, service, rehearsal or performance

Exemption cards

If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering:

  • you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this
  • you do not need to show an exemption card

This means that you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering.

However, some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.

If you wish to use an exemption card or badge, you can download exemption card templates. You can then print these yourself or show them on a mobile device. Please note that the government is not able to provide physical exemption cards or badges.

Get one email every day with all the stories. Sign up to our daily newsletter here

Categories:
 

Latest