The UK government announced a new set of measures on Tuesday to help curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson first confirmed the new restrictions to MPs in the House of Commons in the afternoon, before speaking to the nation in a direct address in the evening.
A number of these significant restrictions officially come into force today.
As well as updated guidance and legislation introduced for a 10pm curfew on hospitality venues, the rule of six, and working from home, these measures also crucially include new locations in which the wearing of face masks and coverings are now legally required by law except in the case of exemption.
The wearing of face coverings in certain public settings has been a mandatory requirement in England for the last month or so – with fines of £100 (reducing to £50 if paid within 14 days) – but other places join the list today.
It was also announced that the government will now bring forward changes for failing to comply with face covering rules.
This means that for repeat offenders, fines would double at each offence up to a maximum value of £6,400.
Where is it now mandatory to wear a face covering from today?
It is now a legal requirement to wear a mask when you are in the following venues, on top of all the places you already had to wear one.
The exemption is when you need to remove it to eat or drink.
These are as follows:
- Bars (Including Hotel Bars
- Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles
The latter comes after the wearing of face coverings was already made mandatory in Uber vehicles from 15th June, with both passengers and drivers reserving the right to cancel their ride if the other party refuses to wear a mask.
Where are face coverings already mandatory?
The following public settings already require members of the public to wear a face covering by law:
- Shops and Supermarkets
- Public Transport (Airplanes, Trains, Trams and Buses)
- Enclosed Shopping Centres
- Banks and Building Societies
- Post Offices
- Places of Worship
- Hair Salons, Barbers, Nail Salons, Massage Centres, Tattoo and Piercing Parlours
- Zoos and Visitor Farms
- Any Other Tourist, Heritage or Cultural Site
- Community or Youth Centres
- Social or Members’ Clubs
- Funeral Homes and Burial Ground Chapels
- Public Areas in Hotels and Hostels
- Concert and Exhibition Halls
- Conference Centres
- Any Other ‘Public Hall’
- Transport Hubs, Stations and Terminals
- Bingo Halls
- Auction Houses
- Storage and Distribution Facilities
The rules on the wearing of face coverings has also changed for staff working in various retail and hospitality sectors from today too.
Businesses are now legally required to have employees or “persons providing services” wear masks in – pubs, shops (apart from premises providing legal and financial services), enclosed shopping centres, restaurants, bars, banks and building societies, post offices, community centres, youth centres, members clubs and social clubs, public areas in hotels and hostels, concert halls, exhibition halls, conference centres or other public halls, cinemas, museums, galleries, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms and other indoor parts of tourist, heritage or cultural sites, bingo halls, libraries, casinos and theatres.
When can I remove my mask?
The new guidance and legislation does detail a number of instances in which members of the public are permitted to remove their face covering.
These are as follows:
- 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, for assessing health recommendations (eg: by a pharmacist), or for age identification purposes including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol.
- If required in order to receive treatment or services (eg: when getting a facial).
- In order to take medication.
- If you are delivering a sermon or prayer in a place or worship.
- If you are the persons getting married in a relevant place.
- If you are aged 11 to 18 attending a faith school and having lessons in a place of worship as part of your core curriculum.
- If you are undertaking exercise or an activity and it would negatively impact your ability to do so.
- If you are an elite sports person, professional dancer or referee acting in the course of your employment.
- When seated to eat or drink in a hospitality premise – such as a pub, bar, restaurant or cafe – but you must put a face covering back on once you finish eating or drinking.
Who is exempt?
The government has also previously released an official list of individuals who are exempt from wearing face coverings.
These exemptions still stand and are as follows:
- Children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommended face coverings for children under the age of three 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.
- Where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress.
- If you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate.
- To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others ‒ including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity.
- Police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public.
For the latest information, guidance and support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK, please do refer to official sources at gov.uk/coronavirus.