Face coverings are compulsory in England shops from today: Here’s what you need to know

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As of today, face coverings are required in all shops and supermarkets in England.

From 24 July, people will be required to cover their nose and mouth in particular public places.

These locations include all stores and supermarkets – as well as takeaways and any other outlet where you will not be sitting down to eat (such as sandwich shops).

The use of masks has been the subject of intense debate since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, although figures show that more Brits are now wearing them than ever before.

So, what has changed? And what does this mean for shoppers? This is what you need to know.

Why have the rules on face coverings changed?

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There has been a steady rise in the use of the face coverings since the beginning of the pandemic.

Research conducted in April showed that less than 8% of people always covered their nose and mouth when they left their homes.

However, over the course of subsequent months, mask usage increased.

Data collected in June revealed that almost 20% of Brits now never left the house without one.

Whilst more people are becoming increasingly convinced by the benefits of wearing masks indoors, the upturn in use is also partly down to new laws.

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made masks compulsory on Scottish public transport in June and in shops earlier this month.

Face coverings became mandatory on trains, buses and trams in England on 15 June.

Now, the rules have been extended to supermarkets, stores and shops selling food to takeaway.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government found face coverings instilled “confidence” in shoppers, offering “additional protection” when people are not able to keep 2 metres apart.

Who needs to wear a mask and who doesn’t?

The vast majority of people will be required to keep their nose and mouth covered in supermarkets and shops in England.

However, the Government did highlight a small number of individuals who would be exempt from the rule.

Children under 11 and those with “certain disabilities”, for example, will not be required to wear masks.

You may not have to use face covering if you have legitimate reason, such as:

  • Not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • If you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate

You are also permitted to remove your face covering if asked by shop staff for identification purposes (e.g. when purchasing alcohol) or to take medication.

You can read the full list of exemptions on the Government website.

What happens if I don’t wear a face covering?

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The Health Secretary has confirmed that “the liability for wearing a face covering lies with the individual.”

If you do not wear a face covering in shops or supermarkets, you could potentially face a fine of up to £100.

Mr. Hancock reiterated that shops can refuse people entry if they are not willing to cover their nose and mouth.

He also said that police have the ability to issue penalties.

Enforcement, however, may vary from store to store.

Several major supermarkets, for example, have stated that they expect all customers to wear masks, but will not challenge those who enter without one.

Where can I get a face covering?

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Face coverings are widely available in shops, stores, supermarkets – so you may be able to ask a friend or family member who already owns a mask to purchase one for you.

They’re also sold online from a wide number of retailers. However, many people are choosing to make their own.

The Government has published a step-by-step guide to help you create a homemade mask here.