When to Wear a Face Covering

On 24 July face coverings became mandatory in England in shops, supermarkets, and enclosed transport hubs. The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.

What constitutes a face covering?

A ‘face covering’ means a covering of any type which covers a person’s nose and mouth, such as a disposable mask, fabric covering, scarf or bandana.

Where are face coverings required to be worn?

  • On public transport.
  • In indoor transport hubs such as train stations and terminals, airports, maritime ports, and indoor bus and coach stations or terminals.
  • In any shops, including food shops, supermarkets, and cafes when buying food and drink to take away. If you are in a premises where you are able to sit down and consume food or drink that you have bought, then you can remove your face covering in order to eat and drink on-site.
  • In banks, building societies, and post offices, including credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses.
  • In most NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries. They are advised to be worn in care homes.
  • The government will extend the requirement to wear a face covering to other indoor settings such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship. This will become enforceable in law from 8 August.

You are also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

Where are face coverings not mandatory?

  • Hairdressers and close-contact services.
  • Eat-in restaurants, cafes and pubs. Face coverings are required in cafes or take-away restaurants that do not provide table service, other than in designated seating areas.
  • Gyms and leisure centres.
  • Dentists or opticians. But NHS guidance states that face coverings should be worn in hospitals.

Who is exempt from wearing a face covering?

  • Children under the age of 11.
  • Those with breathing difficulties and other respiratory conditions.
  • Those with conditions affecting their dexterity, mental health conditions such as anxiety or panic disorders, other non-visible disabilities such as autism, cognitive impairments, visual impairments, and impairments which would make it difficult to put on or take off a face covering safely, accurately, consistently or without pain.
  • Those travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate.
  • Anyone who does not have a face covering with them whilst trying to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm.
  • Those who need to take medication, eat or drink if reasonably necessary.
  • Emergency responders acting in their capacity as an emergency responder.
  • Constables or PCSO acting in the course of their duty.

People are not required to prove they are exempt and it is for individuals to choose how they would want to communicate this to others. For those who would feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering, exemption cards are available to print or display on mobile phones.

What measures can be taken if people do not comply without a valid exemption?

Shops, supermarkets and other premises where face coverings are required are encouraged to take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law and could refuse entry to anyone who does not have a valid exemption.

Transport operators can deny access to their public transport services if a passenger is not wearing a face covering, or direct them to wear one or leave a service if they are not wearing a face covering.

If necessary, the police and Transport for London officers have enforcement powers including issuing fines of £100 (halving to £50 if paid within 14 days).

The full Government guidance can be found here.

How can security teams work effectively when people are wearing face coverings?

Practical advice has been prepared for front of house, concierge, security personnel and building managers by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure. This includes hints and tips on communicating effectively and ensuring the identification of suspicious activity is not hindered.

Download the practical guidance.

Face coverings