FACE mask rules have been toughened up to curb the spread of the coronavirus during the most serious point of the pandemic.
Some people do not need to wear face masks, and may want to carry an “exemption card”.
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Supermarkets are clamping down on face-mask wearing. Pictured: A shopper at Sainsbury’sCredit: PA:Press Association
Supermarkets are clamping down against shoppers who are not wearing masks, with police officers on standby to help.
Sainsbury’s said there will be security staff at entrances to “challenge” shoppers.
It comes after supermarket workers said they had struggled to get proof from customers who claim they are exempt from wearing a mask.
Others have suffered abuse from shoppers after asking them to follow the rules.
Metropolitan Police chief Dame Cressida Dick said London officers would be prepared to assist supermarket staff if customers became “obstructive and aggressive” when they were told they must wear a face covering.
There have been calls for face coverings to be made mandatory in more public places, such as at market stalls and on the high streets.
There are some places where you must wear a face covering by law, unless you are exempt.
A Tesco sign warning shoppers if they did not have a face covering, they could not come inCredit: Alamy Live News
Transport for London (TfL) officers can issue fines of £200 (reduced to £100 if paid within 14 days) if people are not wearing masks.
And repeat offenders will have their fines doubled at each offence, reaching up to a maximum value of £6,400.
What is a face mask exemption card and how can you get one?
Those who are exempted from wearing a face mask may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering.
This is a personal choice, and is not necessary in law.
You can download face mask exemption badge templates from the Government website
The government says that this could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.
The travel exemption card is available to download for free on the TfL website, and can be used with other operators.
Alternatively you can download and print templates for general use here.
For exemptions in different parts of the UK, refer to the specific guidance for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Who is exempt from wearing a face mask?
While masks are compulsory in most public settings, there are exceptions to those who need to wear them.
According to the official Government guidance, these groups are less able to wear face coverings:
- Children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
- People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- Where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- If you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
- To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others ‒ including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity
- Police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public
Why do we need to wear face masks?
The main way the coronavirus spreads is through droplet transmission.
If a person who is infected coughs, their droplets may land on someone else’s face, or on surfaces that are later touched by others.
Wearing a face covering helps prevent this from happening.
It protects you from catching the virus from others, while also preventing you from spreading your germs to other people.
Studies also suggest that people touch their face less when wearing a mask.
Therefore, if you touch a contaminated surface, then wash your hands before taking your face mask off, your less likely to be catch the virus.
A face covering should cover the nose and mouth.
There are also a series of factors which the Government describes as a “reasonable excuse”, which also means you don’t have to wear a mask:
- Public Health England do not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3
- To eat or drink if reasonably necessary
- In order to take medication
- If a police officer or other official asks you remove your face covering
- If you are getting married
- If you need to show your face for identification reasons, such as at a bank
- If needed for a service like a haircut
- If you are delivering a sermon or prayer in a place or worship
- If you are undertaking exercise or an activity where it would negatively impact your ability to do so
- When seated to eat or drink in a hospitality premise such as a pub, bar, restaurant or cafe. However, you must put a face covering back on once you finish eating or drinking