When do I have to wear a face covering? All you need to know as face coverings become mandatory

The latest government guidance has been updated to make the wearing of face coverings in enclosed public spaces including takeaways, shops and supermarkets mandatory.

Where is it mandatory to wear a face covering?

In England, people are required - by law - to wear face coverings in these settings:

  • Public transport

  • Indoor transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)

  • Shops and supermarkets (places which are open to the public and that wholly or mainly offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)

  • Indoor shopping centres

  • Banks, building societies, and post offices (including credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses)

Where don't I have to wear a face covering?

Hospitality settings such as restaurants do not require you to wear a face covering. They are also not required in entertainment venues (such as cinemas, museums and gyms.)

What happens if I don't wear one?

The government has set out guidelines which state that shops, supermarkets and other premises where face coverings are required can take "reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law and could refuse entry to anyone who does not have a valid exemption."

Regulations have been made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, meaning those who fail to wear a face covering could face a fine of up to £100 – in line with those payable for failing to do so on public transport.

The fine will reduce to £50 if paid within 14 days. Enforcement will be carried out by the police if necessary.

Who is exempt from wearing a face covering?

There are groups of people who will be exempt from wearing face coverings. They include 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 the person severe distress and if people are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip-reading to communicate.

There are other situations where people can be exempt from wearing a face covering, they include eating or drinking, in order to take medication and if a police officer or other official requests the removal of a face covering.

What is the proper way to wear a face covering?

Dr Sarah Jarvis demonstrates how people should wear a face covering.

Why has it become mandatory to wear a face covering?

Discussing the change in the recommendation for wearing a face covering, Dr Sarah Jarvis explained that the "evidence has changed" since the initial review.

"Really importantly, the evidence has also changed. So in the last two or three months, there’s been increasing evidence that the virus can spread before people are symptomatic with some evidence that it’s not just coughing or sneezing. But also, it can be passed on when you’re breathing, exhaling perhaps forcefully, particularly in that pre-symptomatic stage so the science has moved on and our situation has moved on," she said on Good Morning Britain.

Explaining the importance of needing to wear a face mask in order to protect everyone, Dr Jarvis added: "Face masks will help to protect not you, but they’ll protect everybody around you from you so yours protects me, mine protects you and that means that if everybody wears them, everybody protects each other."

Dr Jarvis went on to say which face masks are suitable to wear.

"On the whole, we recommend the ones that don’t have a filter. What we do recommend is ideally have at least two layers, preferably three [in one mask] because we’re seeing there’s better evidence of you protecting other people if you’re wearing two or three-layer mask. It should ideally fit as close as possible above your nose, underneath your chin. If you put it underneath your nose, it is not going to work. If you hang it off your left ear it is not going to work."

"On the whole, we recommend the ones that don’t have a filter. What we do recommend is ideally have at least two layers, preferably three [in one mask] because we’re seeing there’s better evidence of you protecting other people if you’re wearing two or three-layer mask. It should ideally fit as close as possible above your nose, underneath your chin. If you put it underneath your nose, it is not going to work. If you hang it off your left ear it is not going to work."