Last month, the UK government announced that face masks or coverings would be mandatory in enclosed public places, such as in shopping centres, supermarkets, banks, post offices and on public transport. However, these new guidelines have led to confusion amongst the general public, with many people still not sure about when or where a face mask is mandatory, and what the consequences are if you are found not wearing one. The government have been criticised for their unclear, untimely messaging, which now has many people second guessing what is compliant and what is not.
There are also guidelines surrounding places where masks are not mandatory. As well as dine in restaurants; pubs, hairdressers, gyms, cinemas and visitor attractions all make the non-compulsory list. According to government advice, these establishments already have safety measures in place and therefore the use of face masks or coverings is not essential. However, there is nothing to prevent people from wearing masks in these areas, if they feel more comfortable in doing so.
It is not currently compulsory for shop workers to wear masks, although employers have been advised to encourage their workers to take relevant safety precautions and opt to wear one when appropriate. However, it is compulsory for people entering shops to wear them and businesses have been asked to help enforce the rule when shoppers enter their establishments, despite government advice also suggesting that it is the responsibility of the individual to wear one. This rule has created mixed responses from business owners, with many suggesting that it is not their duty to implement these rules.
Instead, police have been given the major task of ensuring that everyone is complying with the guidelines and have been informed that they are allowed to use force to prevent individuals from entering premises if they are not wearing a mask, or remove them if they don’t comply with the rules once they are inside.
The financial consequences of non-compliance could be also quite costly too; if you are found to be breaking the rules, you could face a fine of up to £100. However, police have commented that they will only implement the fine – and force – as a last resort.
Finally, it is important to note that there are some exemptions to the rules in terms of who is required to wear a mask. For example, children under 11 are not required to wear masks as they can create a choking hazard. Similarly, people with disabilities or certain health conditions will also not be required to wear masks. This also makes it difficult for shop owners – and members of the public – to enforce these rules to others, as someone may not be wearing a mask due to an underlying health condition which is already exempt.
Government guidelines aside, it is recommended to take a selection of masks out with you wherever you go; you never know when you might need one and it’s always better to be prepared to stay safe and avoid any potentially unpleasant situations or hefty fines.