Face masks: What is classed as a face covering? Can I wear a scarf?

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As of July 24, the use of face coverings will become compulsory when visiting shops in England. The Government has announced the new measures to help prevent the risk of another wave of coronavirus infections. In Scotland face coverings are already mandatory in all shops.

What are the new rules on face coverings?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to clarify the new rules on face coverings on Tuesday, which will be written into law and will include a fine up to £100 for anyone not complying with the measures.

Ahead of Mr Hancock’s announcement on Tuesday, a No 10 spokesman said: “There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus.

“The Prime Minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops and we will make this mandatory from July 24.”

Boris Johnson signalled earlier on Monday that new guidance was due to be announced surrounding the use of face coverings in shops.


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Mr Johnson wore a face covering while visiting the London Ambulance Service, where he described face coverings as “extra insurance” in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

He said: “Yes face coverings, I think people should be wearing in shops and in terms of how we do that, whether we will be making that mandatory or not we will be looking at the guidance, we will be saying a little bit more in the next few days.

“We will be looking in the next few days about exactly how, with what tools of enforcement, we think we want to make progress.

“As the virus comes down in incidence and we have more and more success, I think face coverings are a kind of extra insurance we can all use to stop it coming back and stop it getting out of control again.”

Face coverings are already mandatory on public transport in England, with exceptions for children under the age of 11, people with disabilities or breathing problems, or for anyone travelling with someone who relies on lip-reading.

People must also wear face coverings when visiting hospitals as a visitor or as an outpatient.

The current Government guidance also advises wearing a face covering in enclosed public spaces, in situations where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into close contact with other people.

However, this guidance is due to be extended by the Health Secretary later on Tuesday, with the mandatory wearing of face coverings in shops.


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What is classed as a face covering?

The Labour Party has called on the Government to address the “confusion” around the use of non-surgical masks “without delay”.

Further details about what is classed as a face covering are expected to be explained by Mr Hancock on Tuesday.

However, the Government’s current guidance on face coverings states coverings are not the same as surgical masks.

The Government website states: “A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment.

“These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.

“Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 3 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly.”

According to the Government website, a scarf or a bandana that ties behind the head can be used as a face covering.

Face coverings must cover your nose and mouth to be effective.

The Government has also issued guidance explaining how you can make your own face covering from household items, such as T-shirts, and how you can wear a face covering effectively HERE. 

Face coverings are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), and have been introduced as mandatory in a number of countries.

The Government guidance still maintains anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus or is unwell must stay at home and self-isolate.

But the use of face coverings has been determined to help prevent the wearer from passing on coronavirus if they do not have any symptoms and are unaware they have the virus.

Face coverings are also not a replacement for social distancing, and people will still have to social distance while wearing a face covering in shops.

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