To reduce the risk of a second spike in COVID-19 cases, from July 24 face coverings will be mandatory in shops in England. The new rules will become law, meaning people who do not abide by the new law could face a £100 fine. In England face coverings are currently mandatory on public transport and will soon be compulsory in shops, but the Government also encourages people to wear face coverings in other public spaces where social distancing may be difficult.
How long will face covering rules be in place for?
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this week face covering rules will be in place for the “foreseeable future”.
Mr Hancock said there is currently no end date set for when the new restrictions will be lifted.
Mr Hancock insisted the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport is essential to help prevent the virus from making a resurgence.
He told BBC Breakfast: “People will have to wear masks in shops and on public transport and in the NHS for the foreseeable future.
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“The virus exists only to multiply and, without any measures, we know that each person infects another two to three people so we do have to have these measures in place, even though the number of cases are really low, to keep a grip on the virus.”
Face coverings are already mandatory in shops in Scotland and are compulsory for use on public transport across the UK.
The use of face coverings in shops is also prevalent elsewhere in the world.
The World Health Organization also recommends the use of face coverings in situations where social distancing is difficult, such as in shops or on public transport.
What is a face covering?
A face covering can include anything from a scarf to a reusable face covering which you can wash at home, but face coverings are different from medical PPE.
Face coverings must securely cover your nose and mouth to be effective and must fit securely around your face.
Scientific data shows face coverings can help prevent the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain situations.
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The Government explains: “Coronavirus (COVID-19) can spread predominantly by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking.
“These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, if you touch a surface and then your face without washing your hands first.
“This is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes is so important in controlling the spread of the virus.”
There are some exemptions to the rules on face coverings in England.
Children under the age of 11, people with disabilities and breathing problems, or people travelling with someone who relies on lip reading to communicate, do not need to wear a face covering.
While wearing a face covering, people are urged to continue to socially distance.
The Government adds: “Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.”
If anyone has symptoms of COVID-19 themselves or in their household, they should self-isolate at home.
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