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Coronavirus: What are the rules for face masks or face coverings
event_note  1 Jan

Coronavirus: What are the rules for face masks or face coverings

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says face coverings will become compulsory in England for bar staff, shop workers, waiters and taxi drivers to help control the spread of coronavirus.

People around the UK already have to wear them in shops and on public transport.

Rules are also in place in some schools and places like galleries and museums.

What are the face covering rules in shops?

Face coverings must be worn by customers in shops, supermarkets and shopping centres around the UK.

Those who fail to do so can be fined by the police - up to £100 in England (soon to rise to £200), or £60 in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Shop workers will now also have to wear a face covering.

What about on public transport?

Face coverings are compulsory for anyone travelling by public transport in EnglandScotlandWales and Northern Ireland (unless they have an exemption or a reasonable excuse).

Passengers boarding aircraft in England, Scotland and Wales must wear a face covering - Northern Ireland also recommends their use.

People can be refused travel if they do not follow the rules, and can be fined as a last resort.

Scottish schoolgirl wearing face mask, August 2020

What are the face covering rules in schools?

The government is not recommending face coverings being necessary in education settings because of the controls that are in place.

However, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, secondary school pupils must wear face coverings between lessons.

The Scottish government says all pupils over the age of 12 should wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas, but not in classrooms. Everyone aged over five must wear them on school buses.

The advice is similar in Northern Ireland, where the education minister said guidance on face coverings would be updated to include wearing them in the corridors of post-primary schools.

In England, secondary schools will have the ''discretion'' to require face coverings in communal areas, where social distancing is not possible.

However, they will be mandatory for schools in parts of England that are under a local lockdown, or facing extra government restrictions, but not in classrooms.

In Wales, face coverings are recommended in high schools when social distancing is "unlikely to be maintained", but are not compulsory. Schools and councils will decide if they are used.

Media captionStop your glasses steaming up with a mask on

How about other indoor spaces?

In England and Scotland, face coverings are also compulsory in a number of indoor spaces. These include:

  • Banks, building societies and post offices
  • Places of worship
  • Museums, galleries and entertainment venues
  • Libraries and public reading rooms

Face coverings do not have to be worn where it would be ''impractical'' - for instance when dining in restaurants or exercising in a gym.

In Wales, face coverings in shops and indoor public places are now required.

In Northern Ireland, apart from shops, the rule includes "any other indoor place where goods or services are available to buy or rent... for example, a bookmaker's, a food takeaway business or a dry cleaner".

Who doesn't have to wear a face covering?

Some people do not have to wear a face covering. They include:

  • Children (under 11 in England and under 5 in Scotland)
  • Those unable to put on or wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or disability
  • People for whom wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress
  • Anyone assisting someone who relies on lip reading to communicate

You can take off your mask if:

  • You need to eat, drink, or take medication
  • A police officer or other official asks you to, or if shop staff need to verify your age
  • You are entering a shop to avoid harm, if you do not have a mask on you

Young children should not wear face masks because of the risk of choking and suffocation.

Where am I supposed to get a face covering?

The government has been careful to use the term "face covering" rather than "face mask" - with surgical masks kept for medical use.

The BBC has created a guide on how to make your own face covering. The government has issued its own advice too.

Graphic showing how not to make a mask: DO NOT use if damaged or damp. DO NOT wear it around chin. DO NOT wear loose-fitting masks. DO NOT pull away from face to speak. DO NOT touch front of mask. DO NOT share your mask

Do face coverings work?

World Health Organization (WHO) advice says non-medical face coverings should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible.

Coronavirus is spread when droplets are sprayed into the air when infected people talk, cough or sneeze. Those droplets can then fall on surfaces.

The WHO says there is also emerging evidence of airborne transmission of the virus, with tiny particles hanging in aerosol form in the air.

Homemade cloth face coverings can help reduce the spread from people who are contagious but have no symptoms, or are yet to develop symptoms.

Scientists in Singapore suggest the contagion risk is especially high in the 24-48 hours before an infected person is even aware they might have the disease.

Taking a face covering on and off can also risk contamination, the WHO says.

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source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51205344