Wearing face coverings in shops and supermarkets has become compulsory from today, 24 July 2020.
There is growing evidence that face coverings can stop the spread of coronavirus and members of the public will now by law have to ensure they wear a face covering when visiting shops and supermarkets.
This comes after it was made the law in England to wear a face covering on public transport from 15 June 2020.
Under the new rules, people who do not wear a face covering will face a fine of up to £100, in line with the sanction on public transport and just as with public transport, children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.
Dr Andrew Lee, Director of Primary Care and Population Health at NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: "There is a significant benefit to wearing a face covering - if someone's got an infection, they might be asymptomatic and a face covering is going to reduce the likelihood of them transmitting an infection."
He said businesses and the health service would also benefit because staff working in shops will be less likely to catch the virus.
Importantly, those exempt from wearing face coverings or who have legitimate reason not to, should not face discrimination from other members of the public or retail staff. This includes not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability. A full list of exemptions can be found below.
In a BBC article Lisa Winward, Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police previously said that forces were waiting for guidance from the government on enforcing the rule, which has been made the law today.
Highlighting the difficulties shop owners and staff would face if a customer was not wearing a face covering, she said: "If you ask people and you explain it's for health reasons, generally you won't get that kick-back.
"And if they do get a kick-back, absolutely from a policing perspective, we will go and support those local people."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said "everyone must play their part" by following the new guidance.
"As we move into the next stage of easing restrictions for the public, it is vital we continue to shop safely so that we can make the most of our fantastic retail industry this summer,"
"I also want to thank the British public for all the sacrifices they are making to help keep this country safe."
Exemptions list on 24/07/2020
In the UK, you do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:
- young children under the age of 11
- 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
- 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, but only if you need to
- to take medication
- if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked:
- If asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification
- 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
We have created a document with cards which can be cut out and kept to explain reasons why you may be exempt from wearing a face covering. Please download this PDF.
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