The Government is following scientific guidance to ensure that steps are taken to ensure that people are able to go about their business as safely as possible. The body of scientific evidence that has built up shows that the risk of transmission is made lower by wearing a face covering.
New rules about face coverings do not mean people should wear surgical masks or respirators (which need to be kept available for those who need to wear them at work). Instead, people should wear the kind of face covering that can easily be made at home. Face coverings should cover the mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably, and can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head to give a snug fit. Indeed, the Government has published advice for people on how to make their own face coverings at home:
Some people will be exempt from needing to wear a face covering, for example children under the age of 11. Moreover, some people will have a reasonable excuse not to wear one. This would apply, for instance, to a person who has a disability or physical or mental illness or impairment which means they cannot wear a face covering. The full list of exemptions and reasonable excuses can be found at the following link:
The Government are balancing the need to restrict the spread of the virus without infringing on civil liberties, while allowing the restoration of economic and social life. The Government have made a judgement that the best way to balance these things is to enable people to go out and about, and to see and socialise with friends and family, but to require that, if they choose to do so, they take additional measures to restrict the spread of this virus by wearing face coverings in certain situations. It is vital that we do all that we can to protect a second wave of Covid-19. The Government is keeping all guidelines under constant review to ensure that any restrictions in place are worthwhile measures in the fight against coronavirus.
As of 24 July 2020, it will be mandatory to wear a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England. This move will help give shoppers more confidence to shop safely while also enhancing protection. The British Retail Consortium has said that social distancing measures and face coverings can make shoppers feel more confident to return to the high street. Sadly sales assistants, cashiers and security guards have suffered disproportionately in this crisis. The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75 per cent higher among men, and 60 per cent higher among women than in the general population. Therefore action is being taken to mitigate risk and keep shopkeepers and retail staff safe is crucial. Under the new rules, should an individual refuse to wear a face covering they could face a fine of up to £100.
The Government is also now recommending the use of face coverings in all enclosed spaces where you are likely to come into contact with people outside your household: this will include places like cinemas.
These measures will help restore confidence and also add further protection to enable people to go about their daily business. However, it is important to keep in mind that this measure is in addition to the existing safety measures, including regular hand washing and observing social distancing.