Covid: What are the new face covering rules for England and when do they start?

New rules on face coverings have come into force in England - but have people and businesses paid attention? ITV News North of England reporter Hannah Miller finds out

From Tuesday at 4am masks will be mandatory in many places across England after the rules were tightened as fears over the Omicron variant spread across the globe.

Governments across the world acted swiftly at the end of last week to restrict travel from South Africa where the variant was first detected.

The UK now has 14 confirmed cases of the variant - which was first detected in South Africa - after the Scottish government announced on Tuesday it had discovered three more cases on top of the six announced on Monday.

Two cases in London were also reported on Monday, adding to the two cases identified on Saturday in Brentwood, Essex and Nottingham and a third case confirmed on Sunday.

The government limited travel from southern Africa on Friday and Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new restrictions for England at a press conference on Saturday.

The new rules bring England closer to the rest of the UK but it is not "plan B" which would see the recommendation to work from home return and the use of Covid passes.

The main changes were around masks, so what will change on Tuesday?

Where are face coverings mandatory?

On Saturday, Mr Johnson announced face coverings will be mandatory on public transport and in shops from Tuesday morning.

The rule also applies to:

  • supermarkets

  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)

  • takeaways

  • auction houses and retail galleries

  • post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses

  • estate agents and travel agents

  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (such as hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing studios)

  • pharmacies

  • vets

  • taxis and private hire vehicles

  • transport stations and terminals

  • vehicles during driving lessons and tests

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As before, people in England will face a £200 fine for the first time they break the new rules.The rules do not stretch to pubs, restaurants or nightclubs - a decision that has been questioned by experts.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that staff in pubs and restaurants should be required to wear face coverings when serving customers.Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of council at the BMA, told ITV's Good Morning Britain: “What we believe is that there should be mask-wearing in all settings which are enclosed and indoors.

“Now clearly, that doesn’t apply to people who are eating out, but it should apply to staff, for example, in restaurants and bars so that when you are close to a customer, when you’re in direct line of a customer and you’re speaking perhaps loudly, you reduce the chance of infecting others.

“This isn’t just about the public, it’s also about staff and employers as well, because if they have staff who become infected, staff who are ill and self-isolating, that will also affect the economy.”

Where are face coverings being recommended?

Alongside the mandatory mask rules on public transport and in shops the government has also issued strong recommendations other sectors encouraging them to bring in mask rules.

The government is urging staff in schools and any pupils in year 7 or above to wear a mask while on site in any communal area.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said this recommendation went all the way up to the university level.

As this is only a recommendation, you can not be fined by the government not wearing a mask in these settings.Guidance on the Department of Education's website said: “We recommend that face coverings should be worn by students, staff and adult visitors when moving around the premises such as in corridors and communal spaces.”

The updated advice for universities adds: “We recommend that you consider whether to go ahead with planned international educational visits at this time, recognising the risk of disruption to education resulting from the need to isolate and test on arrival back into the UK.”

Masks will be required in shops from Tuesday Credit: PA

What other rules have been introduced?

On top of the new mask rules, the government has pressed ahead with plans to extend the booster vaccines to all people over the age of 18.

The changes have been made following advice to the government from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid immunisation at the JCVI said: “Having a booster dose of the vaccine will help to increase our level of protection against the Omicron variant.

"This is an important way for us to reduce the impact of this variant on our lives, especially in the coming months."

The group's deputy chairman Professor Anthony Harnden said experts have been looking at extending boosters to the under-40s and whether the time interval between the second and third doses of the vaccine should be cut.

In another tightening of the rules, anyone who comes into contact with someone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant must isolate at home for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

If you need to quarantine you will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.