Face masks are becoming increasingly integrated into daily life. Protective coverings and masks are compulsory and advised in certain circumstance across Britain in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus. But when exactly are you permitted to remove your face mask?
What are the new rules relating to face masks?
Face masks are now mandatory in most indoor public areas including shops, banks and supermarkets in England from Friday, July 24.
Face coverings are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection.
Masks work by covering one’s nose and mouth which are the main confirmed sources of viral transmission.
However, there are exemptions for certain people who are not required to wear masks due to the detrimental impact on their mental or physical health.
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When must you wear a face mask?
Regulations differ depending on where in the UK you live.
In England you must wear a mask in the following situations:
- On public transport
- In indoor transport hubs
- In shops and supermarkets
- In indoor shopping centres
- In banks, building societies, and post offices.
- In Scotland, face coverings are also mandatory in shops and on public transport.
- In Wales, face masks will become mandatory on public transport from July 27, but they are not compulsory in shops.
- In Northern Ireland, face masks are only compulsory on public transport, hospitals and care homes.
When are you exempt from wearing a face mask?
According to the UK Government, some people are not required to wear a mask in any situation.
The legitimate reasons when you are permitted not to wear a mask include:
- Young children under the age of 11, with Public Health England recommending face coverings be avoided for children under the age of three for health and safety reasons
- Those who are unable to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability including those with respiratory conditions, dexterity conditions, anxiety or panic disorders or other non-visible disabilities.
- Emergency responders in the course of their work
- Police of PCSOs in the course of their work
- Shop staff and public transport operators in the course of their work
- Those who find putting on, wearing or removing a face covering causes them severe distress
- Those travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip-reading to communicate.
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When can you remove your mask?
For anyone apart from those outlined above, they are expected to wear masks in all enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible, including public transport, shops and supermarkets in England.
But these people are permitted to remove their masks for the following set of specific reasons:
- To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
- To avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
- To eat or drink if reasonably necessary
- In order to take medication
- If a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering.
In addition, you are also permitted to remove a face covering when asked in the following situations:
If asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
If asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, the purpose of assessing health recommendations, such as a pharmacist, or for age identification purposes including when buying age-restricted products such as alcohol
If speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication.
Where do you not have to wear a face mask?
Face masks are not compulsory in pubs, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms, cinemas, theatres or concert halls.
However, each of these businesses are expected to take measures to protect their staff and customers from coronavirus meaning venues become “COVID-secure”.
In keeping with these rules, people are not required to wear a mask by law, but staff and visitors may be asked to wear one.
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