Face masks now compulsory in shops and takeaways

The wearing of face masks is now compulsory in England

After many months of intense debate, the government has now updated the advice on the wearing of facemasks. As of today (24th July), all UK citizens will be expected to wear facemasks when entering an enclosed retail environment. Businesses offering table service only are exempt.

What does this mean?

Well the government have suggested that it is simply not practical to eat or drink with a covered face. If purchasing food or drink to consume off the premises, this is regarded as a retail transaction and as such, a facemask should be worn.

It should be noted that the main benefit of facemasks is that they reduce the chance of the person wearing the mask from spreading the virus to others, in other words, this new guidance should provide extra protection to you and your staff. It also means we’re all going to need a mask if we want to enter a shop again in the next six months.

The new advice came with some confusion, with Michael Gove pictured leaving Pret a Manger facemask free, which then led to various attempts at clarification from civil servants and ministers.

As mobile catering units are not enclosed spaces, it is likely that vans, trailers and gazebos fall outside of this advice, however, the public and some enforcement officers may expect businesses to ensure that masks are worn by customers and as such, signage and messaging are likely the best way to increase this. These rules are currently for England with variations across the four nations. You can see the country specific advice here. It is worth noting that this advice will change in time.

As noted on the Northern Ireland Covid Advice: Crucially, do not get a false sense of security about the level of protection provided by wearing a face covering. It is essential that everyone continues to:

  • practise social distancing as much as humanly possible
  • wash their hands thoroughly throughout the day
  • ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’ when they sneeze or cough

That’s still the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

The changes follow coverings being made compulsory on public transport and in hospitals last month, and aims to reduce the risk of transmission, as shoppers return to work and the high street.

Where do I have to wear a face mask?

It will be compulsory to wear a face covering when buying food and drink from takeaway cafes and shops. If you are in a premises where you are able to sit down and consume food or drink that you have bought, then you can remove your face covering in order to eat and drink on site.

Face coverings will not be mandatory for anyone under the age of 11, those with disabilities or certain health conditions, such as respiratory or cognitive impairments that make it difficult for them to wear a face covering.

Face coverings must also be worn in banks, building societies and post offices but will not be made mandatory in other venues that have measures in place to protect staff and the public from Covid-19, including:

  • Eat-in restaurants and pubs
  • Hairdressers and treatment salons
  • Gyms and leisure centres
  • Cinemas, concert halls and theatres

For transport hubs in England, the requirements mean face coverings must be worn in indoor train stations and terminals, airports, maritime ports, and indoor bus and coach stations or terminals.

How to properly wear a face mask

In addition to the guidance below the UK’s Health and Safety Executive website provides guidance on wearing face coverings.

A face covering should:

  • cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably
  • fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face
  • be secured to the head with ties or ear loops
  • be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton
  • ideally include at least two layers of fabric (the World Health Organisation recommends three depending on the fabric used)
  • unless disposable, it should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged

More information regarding the maintaining, disposing of and safe use of face masks can be found on the Gov.uk website.

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