From midnight, it will be mandatory for most people to wear a face mask or face covering in shops and supermarkets in England.
As more retailers are reopening after lockdown, customers are urged to remain alert and to follow government guidelines around wearing a face mask or covering to lower the risk of transmitting COVID-19, protecting shop assistants and fellow shoppers.
Reducing the number of cases will also help to protect those on the NHS frontline from being overwhelmed. According to Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, the death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75% higher amongst men and 60% higher amongst women than in the general population.
As with the existing rules for public transport – if an individual refuses to wear a face covering in a shop, they will be refused entry and the police will have powers to issue a fine of up to £100. Dr Ruth Edwards, Chair of Dudley CCG, said:
“As life begins to get back to some sort of normality, we must all remain vigilant and follow the government’s rules. If you have any symptoms of Covid-19 – a persistent cough, high temperature or loss of taste or smell – you and everyone in your household or support bubble should self-isolate.
"You should call 119 to arrange a test; and you should cooperate with NHS Test and Trace to contain the spread. Even if you don’t show any of the symptoms, you could still be carrying coronavirus, so face coverings are a good way to protect others when you are out and about.”
In the context of the Coronavirus outbreak, a face covering is defined as something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings or you can use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face and not require the wearer to hold the covering with their hands.
A simple guide to creating your own face covering can be found by clicking here.
A number of groups, including children and whose with some illnesses or disabilities, are exempt from wearing coverings. Dr Edwards added:
“Even though face masks and coverings will be mandatory from 24 July, those with certain disabilities and children under the age of 11 will be exempt.
"Whether you wear one or not, we urge you to continue to stay alert, wash your hands frequently and stay two metres apart from others whenever possible.”
Groups who are exempt include children under the age of 11, someone with an impairment that could be affected by putting on a face mask, those travelling with another person who requires lip reading or someone with an illness or disability which means they are unable to put a mask on or it causes a lot of distress.
You may also remove your face covering for a short period if you need to take medication, eat or drink.
For more information, you can visit gov.uk/coronavirus.