Face mask rules explained: From new start dates to fines and exemptions

MASK wearing will become compulsory in shops from Friday, July 24.

But where else do I need to wear a face mask? Here is everything we know about rules, fines and exemptions.

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When do I have to start wearing a mask?

Face masks are compulsory in;

  • Public transport (trains, busses, trams) since Monday June 15
  • Hospitals (staff, visitors and outpatients are all required to wear masks)
  • Shops and takeaways, if ordering from the counter, from July 24

Masking the mouth and nose reduces the risk of asymptomatic carriers — people who are infected but showing no symptoms — from passing on the bug.

Railway staff have adopted the mask-wearing guidelines.

The PM spoke out ahead of the announcement that masks will be compulsory in stores.

He said: “I do think in shops it is very important to wear a face ­covering if you are going to be in a confined space.

“You want to protect other people and receive protection in turn.

“Face coverings — I think people should be wearing them in shops.”

A DIY face-covering can be used — even just a scarf or a thin cloth mask.

From Friday, July 24, the government has implemented the rule that people entering shops must wear face masks.

The new Covid-19 rule comes after ministers were criticised for contradicting each other on the need for masks.

Boris Johnson said wearing a face mask while shopping is a vital “insurance policy” to stop coronavirus exploding again.

The government also warned that for face coverings to be effective, people must wash their hands before putting them on and taking them off.

The government is asking people to use a simple face covering, and not buy up PPE standard medical masks as they are still needed for the NHS.

Where are face masks NOT compulsory?

Face masks are always recommended in crowded spaces but are on the whole not compulsory in outdoor spaces.

This includes when walking down the street and sitting in the park.

You also will not need to wear a face mask in a coffee shop or hospitality shop like McDonald's if you are eating in and receiving table service – but you must go straight to the table and not the counter for this.

And while face masks are compulsory on public transport, the rules do not cover bus stops railway stations and other terminals. It is encouraged by station staff, though.

Anyone not wearing a mask will be kicked off unless they are disabled, young children or have breathing difficulties.

The law does not cover private hire taxis – but Uber confirmed all drivers and passengers will be required by company policy.

When will I need to wear a face mask in takeaways and shops?

Face masks will be compulsory in takeaways and shops from July 24.

But there was confusion over whether takeaways would be included in this.

It would mean customers in fast food restaurants such as McDonald's would have to wear a face covering while ordering at the counter for a takeaway.

Customers wanting to eat inside would have to sit down for table service if they wanted to eat indoors.

Buying food from a counter then sitting down will be banned.

A government source told the Daily Telegraph: "You have to sit down straight away if you are going to eat in. If you can sit at a table, you don't need to wear a mask."

Will I be fined for not wearing one?

Yes. People caught not wearing a mask in shops will be fined £100, cut to £50 if paid within a fortnight.

Enforcement will be carried out by police and not retail staff.

However, it is unclear how tough police will be when it comes to enforcing the new law.

Devon and Cornwall's police and crime commissioner has already said cops are too busy to be dealing with this.

Alison Hernandez added that they would only intervene if there was "disorder or violence or something associated with it" as the force moves "back into ordinary policing."

And the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) suggested officers would only intervene over face masks as a "last resort".

The public will face fines if they don't wear a mask on public transport in future, Grant Shapps has confirmed.

The fines will cost you up to £80 on the spot, and £1,000 if you're caught breaking the 14 day quarantine if you're coming in from overseas.

The Transport Secretary insisted that people would be refused travel or would have to cough up if they disobey the rules.

British Transport Police are enforcing the rules and will be on patrol to make sure people are wearing them.

Those caught not wearing a mask in shops will be fined £100, cut to £50 if paid within a fortnight.

Shopkeepers will be urged to encourage the public to comply with the new rule.

What are the exemptions for wearing faces masks?

Official Government guidance exempts the following groups: 

  • A child under the age of 11
  • An employee of the transport operator, when they are working
  • A person with breathing difficulties
  • Anyone travelling with someone who relies on lip reading
  • People with disabilities
  • Any other person providing services to the transport operator, under arrangements made with the transport operator
  • A constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An emergency responder such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An official, for example a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
  • If you are allocated a cabin, berth or other similar accommodation, at any time when you are in that accommodation, either alone, or only with members of your own household or a linked household
  • If you are on board public transport but remain in your private vehicle, for example on a car ferry

How to make a homemade mask

If you're unable to get your hands on a mask you can make your own at home.

Homemade masks won't offer the same level of protection as medical-grade ones, but it hasn't stopped DIY tutorials popping up online.

One of the simplest ones involves using two layers of kitchen roll and one tissue cut in half.

You then cover each end with masking tape – and you can even tape down some wire to stiffen the mask, if you have any.

Finish by punching holes in each end and threading elastic through to fit around your ears.

If you don't have elastic bands you could also use a hair tie.

Where can I buy face masks and how can I make my own?

High demand means a lot of retailers have already sold out, but there are some shops with stock, if you're not making your own.

Just make sure to check delivery times beforehand as your order may be delayed due to the coronavirus.

Fabric face coverings

  • Buy from Amazon – prices start from £3
  • Buy from Etsy – prices start from £3
  • Buy from eBay – prices start from £3
  • Buy from Notonthehighstreet – prices from £5
  • Buy sustainable face mask – £8
  • Buy from Asos – prices from £10
  • Buy from Next – £22
  • Buy ethical face mask – £29 for two

DIY face mask

  • Buy from Wilko – £3 for a three-pack
  • Buy from Wickes – from £1.25

Disposable face masks

  • Buy from Boots – prices from £15 for a pack of 20
  • Buy from Home Bargains – £19.99 for a pack of 50
  • Buy from B&M – £19.99 for a pack of 50

Cycling masks

  • Buy from Wiggle – prices start from £22
  • Buy from Etsy – prices start from £17


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