What is changing from today?

Face masks are longer compulsory from today as England takes the final step in the roadmap out of lockdown. 

From today, rules surrounding face masks largely depend on the discretion of individuals. Retailers, hospitality businesses, transport services and other public venues will be able to implement their own rules regarding face masks, social distancing, and check-ins. 

Official ruling, however, will vary across the country, with several mayors indicating that face masks would remain compulsory on public transport. 

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, and Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, have both stated that mask wearing will continue on public transport out of concern for vulnerable passengers.

The mayors in West and South Yorkshire have indicated that face coverings will remain mandatory in bus stations and interchanges, but this will not extend to public transport.

Before today, face masks were required in almost all indoor public spaces that remained open, both for staff and customers.

Should I still wear a face mask in shops?

From today, face masks in supermarkets and retailers will no longer be required by law. However, the Government will continue to encourage people to wear masks in crowded or enclosed spaces.

Supermarket chains including Tesco and M&S have already indicated that they will continue requiring customers and staff to where masks where possible, but they will not enforce this policy to minimise confrontation.

Many high street chains, including retailers such as Primark and Waterstones, have also stated that they will ask customers to continue wearing face masks in store but others, such as Costa Coffee, said customers and staff would no longer have to.

Are masks still required on trains and buses?

From today, the use of face masks on public transport will be at the discretion of transport operators.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, has stated that masks will continue to be required on the Metrolink tram service and at Manchester Airport. While Mr Burnham does not have the authority to enforce mask wearing on trains and buses, he nonetheless urged locals to continue wearing masks in “solidarity” to vulnerable passengers.

Similarly, Sadiq Khan has stated that mask wearing will remain compulsory on all forms of public transport, including taxis and private hire vehicles.

Many other mayors have voiced their support for continued use of face masks in public, despite lacking the authority to enforce it as a rule.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents passenger and freight rail companies, said passengers would be encouraged to wear masks when stations are busy. Many rail operators have said they will expect passengers to put on masks when in a crowded carriage.

It raises the prospect of passengers having to put on and then remove coverings throughout a journey, depending which rail service or station they are using and how busy it is.

To add to the confusion, some operators have said they expect passengers to wear masks on trains regardless of how busy a service is, while others require it only if a carriage is crowded.

Do we still have to wear face masks in pubs and restaurants?

The hospitality industry will set their own requirements on whether they expect customers to wear masks. 

Several aspects of the Government’s Covid-19 safety procedures have been the subject of protest by the hospitality industry for several months. Specifically, face masks, mandatory table service, and the one-metre rule have been criticised by restaurateurs and pub landlords as detrimental to business.

The country’s biggest pub chains are telling customers and staff they can wear masks at their own discretion.

Wetherspoon, Greene King and Mitchell and Butler, which between them run nearly 6,000 pubs, have said it is up to customers and staff whether or not they choose to wear a mask.  

Hospitality businesses will also have the option to ask customers for evidence of their vaccination status using the NHS Covid Pass.

What science says about face masks 

Scientific studies have shown that wearing face coverings over the mouth and nose may reduce the risk of an infected person passing the virus on to someone else.

The Government has advised the public to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, like shops, where they will be with people they would not usually meet, since May 11 2020. 

Where have face masks been compulsory?

Until today, face masks were compulsory in the following locations: 

  • Supermarkets and shops
  • Banks and building societies
  • Transport hubs, including train stations and terminals, airports, ports, bus and coach stations or terminals
  • Post Offices
  • Sandwich shops
  • Takeaways
  • Places of worship
  • Taxis
  • Private vehicle hire
  • Funeral service providers

Who was exempt from wearing a face mask?

According to the official Government guidance, the below groups were not required to wear a mask while it was legally enforceable:

  • A child under the age of 11
  • An employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
  • A constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An emergency response member of staff, such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An official such as a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
  • If you are on board public transport but remain in your own vehicle, such as a car ferry

Other legitimate exemptions listed include those with a disability or a physical or mental illness, and anyone travelling with a deaf person who relies on lip reading to communicate. 

Wearers are also permitted to remove them if it is necessary to avoid harm or injury, as well as to eat or drink if required, to take medication, or if a police officer or other official requests you to do so.

Customers in shops will also be allowed to remove them if they are required to present identification for purchasing alcohol and other age-restricted products. 

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