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COVID-19: What are the rules on wearing face masks in England from today?

Written by on 19 July 2021

The majority of legal restrictions on social contact in England have been removed from today, but the wearing of masks is still recommended in some places.

As the country moves into step four of the easing of lockdown, the government is removing COVID-19 prevention measures and is asking people to take personal responsibility for keeping themselves and others safe from infection.

Face coverings will no longer be required by law, but the government said it “expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport”.

Some industries and businesses have revealed what their rules will be on requiring face masks, but they will differ across the country.

Here are some of the main places and operators that have stipulated their rules on face coverings:

Public transport

This is the one area the government has been more specific about recommending people wear face masks, although there is still no legal need to from 19 July.

However, some public transport operators and mayors have said they will continue to require them.

Coach and bus

Most coach and bus passengers across England will not be required to wear face masks after the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), which represents 95% of buses and coaches, said it would not make them compulsory.

The CPT, which represents operators including Stagecoach, First Group, Go Ahead and Arriva, said: “We expect that many people, especially in busy places, will follow the prime minister’s call to continue to wear a face covering as a courtesy to others.”

Doncaster, UK - October 15, 2020. A Hitachi Azuma Class 800 diesel electric passenger train on the east Coast Main Line Image: Train passengers will not have to wear masks

Trains

No train passengers will be forced to wear face masks, said the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents all UK train and tram operators.

It said “rail travel is low-risk” and claimed most carriages are “well ventilated by air conditioning systems or by doors and windows”.

London

In the capital, passengers on all Transport for London (TfL) services – including the Tube, bus, tram, Docklands Light Railway, Overground and TfL Rail – will need to keep wearing a face covering in stations and for their entire journey unless they are exempt.

Enforcement officers in London will be able to deny access or eject passengers who are found to not be complying with the mask requirement.

TfL will also ensure taxi and private hire vehicle drivers and passengers wear masks, unless exempt.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wears a face covering as he travels on the Tube Image: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said all TfL services will require passengers to wear face masks

West Yorkshire

The regions’ mayors said people must continue to wear face masks indoors at bus stations in West Yorkshire.

North East and Manchester

Metro passengers in the North East and those on Greater Manchester’s Metrolink tram services and at Manchester Airport will be required to wear face coverings.

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Liverpool City Region

Masks are mandatory on Mersey Ferries and the ferry landing stage, and Mayor Steve Rotherham said he wanted them to be compulsory on all public transport but “doesn’t have the power”.

West Midlands

Mayor Andy Street said: “We are expecting passengers on all modes of public transport to continue to wear face coverings to protect staff and vulnerable passengers.”

Supermarkets

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose and Co-op have said they will encourage customers to keep using face masks in store but will not bar those who do not.

As the government guidance says masks should be worn “in crowded areas”, that would point to supermarkets.

But a spokeswoman for the Co-op, which like rivals will support the continued use of masks, said it would not enforce the policy – highlighting fears this could be a “flashpoint for violence and abuse” towards staff.

A woman wears a mask during a trip to the supermarket Image: Supermarkets have said it is up to staff and customers whether they wear a mask or not

Bars, pubs and restaurants

UK Hospitality, which represents the hospitality sector, said businesses will decide what works for them but most have “invested heavily to make their venues COVID-safe so they’ll be well-placed to know what measures – if any – are necessary to reduce risk”.

Pub chain Greene King, which owns more than 1,050 pubs, including Hungry Horse as well as Loch Fyne Seafood, said staff and customers can choose whether to wear a mask or not.

Mitchells and Butlers, which runs about 1,700 pubs, bars and restaurants, including Toby Carvery, O’Neills, Harvester, All Bar One and Browns, has said the same.

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said the pub chain will use the same measures agreed in July 2020, including increased ventilation, screens and encouraging ordering and paying via its app, and will make face masks available for staff and customers if they want to wear them and keep the Test and Trace system but it will not be compulsory.

A man sits at his laptop in a cafe, as pubs, cafes and restaurants in England reopen indoors under the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown, in Manchester. Image: Most hospitality venues have had to be made COVID-safe already and they will decide on masks

Workplaces

Offices and places where people work are real grey areas under the government guidance, unions have said.

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC), which represents most trade unions in England and Wales, has said workplaces should carry out risk assessments in consultation with employees and unions to determine what precautions should be taken.

It is urging the government to “toughen its confusing and inadequate back-to-work safety guidance – starting with making masks a legal requirement on public transport and in shops”.

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“Staff shortages will only get worse unless people are kept safe at work,” a TUC spokesman said.

“And if we are to stop COVID-19 ripping through workplaces workers must be able to afford to self-isolate.

“Ministers must urgently raise sick pay to the level of the real Living Wage and make sure everyone can get it.”

He added that employees who do not feel COVID-safe in the workplace should get in touch with their union or the Health and Safety Executive.

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