Will you have to wear a face mask in shops when they reopen?

Monday, 15th June 2020, 11:21 am
Updated Monday, 15th June 2020, 11:23 am
Will customers have to wear face masks in shops? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Will customers have to wear face masks in shops? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Non-essentials shops have now reeopened their doors in England, after temporarily closing when the UK entered lockdown on 23 March.

Wearing face coverings is now compulsory on public transport in England, and staff, visitors and outpatients in hospitals are also expected to wear them.

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But will customers have to wear them in shops? Here’s what you need to know.

Will I have to wear a face mask in shops?

Non-essential retailers have now reopened, but it is not compulsory to wear a face covering, according to the current government guidelines.

However, face coverings are recommended in some enclosed spaces - such as shops - when social distancing isn't possible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has now changed its advice on face masks, saying that they should be worn in public, where social distancing is not possible in order to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The WHO had previously said there was not enough evidence to say that healthy people should wear masks, but have now said new information showed they could provide "a barrier for potentially infectious droplets".

However, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead expert on Covid-19, told Reuters news agency that the recommendation was for people to wear a "fabric mask - that is, a non-medical mask".

WHO explains that fabric masks should consist of "at least three layers of different material" in order to be effective.

Do I have to wear a face mask on public transport?

With passenger numbers on public transport expected to increase when lockdown measures are eased further as part of phased plans, Transport Secretary Mr Shapps said "every precaution" must be taken.

From 15 June, face coverings must be worn on buses, trains, trams coaches, aircraft and ferries.

However, the transport secretary said very young children, disabled people and those with breathing difficulties would be exempt.

Mr Shapps also said that social distancing measures and regular hand washing were still the most important measures for preventing the disease from spreading.

Surgical masks must also be kept for clinical settings and travellers should wear the kind of face covering that could be made at home.

Those travelling on public transport should cover the mouth and nose, and acceptable coverings include a scarf or bandana.

The new compulsory rule for wearing face coverings on public transports coincides with the planned reopening of non-essential shops, and the return of some secondary school pupils in England from 15 June.

Mr Shapps said this would put "more pressure" on the public transport network.

Although the rule only applies to England, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her government was also considering whether to make it mandatory to wear face coverings in some situations.

Scotland currently recommends wearing coverings on public transport and in shops.

In Northern Ireland, people have been told to consider wearing face covering in places where they cannot observe social distancing. In Wales, face coverings have not yet been recommended for the general public.

Will I get fined if I don’t wear a mask on public transport?

The government said that it expects the "vast majority" of the public to comply with the new changes set to come into place on public transport.

But operators will be able to issue penalty fines for those who do not. This will be in a similar way to people who travel without a ticket, with the British Transport Police helping to implement the new rules.

Network Rail chairman, Sir Peter Hendy, said at the Downing Street briefing, "I am expecting sensible passengers to do their duty and look after themselves and others.”