Q&A: What are the new rules around face coverings?
PUBLISHED: 07:59 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 08:22 16 June 2020
With a further easing of lockdown taking effect from today as shops previously deemed non-essential begin to reopen and some secondary school students return to classes, the wearing of face coverings has been made mandatory in certain situations in order to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Following advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which says people should wear face coverings in any situation where social distancing is not possible, especially indoors or in an enclosed space, from today it is now compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport in England.
Passengers caught not complying with the regulations risk being fined £100 and removed from services, as one Norfolk-based bus operator warned that they would call the police if a customer refused to follow the new rules.
In our hospitals, outpatients, visitors and staff will also be required to wear face coverings.
• What are the rules on public transport?
With high streets and more schools beginning to reopen, it is expected that passengers levels will increase on buses and trains.
To help stop the spread of Covid-19 in situations where it will be difficult or impossible to maintain social distancing, it is now a legal requirement to wear a face covering while travelling on either of these methods of public transport, as well as on ferries or planes.
The rules exclude taxis and other private hire vehicles, though companies could choose to implement their own rules should they wish to do so.
Passengers on public transport will be allowed to remove the covering to eat or drink if it is “reasonably necessary” to do so, while those exempt altogether from the new rules include children under 11, anyone with breathing difficulties or disabilities and anyone who is travelling with someone else who needs to read your lips to understand them.
• What are the rules in hospitals?
NHS England is once again allowing visitors to hospitals, although it is up to individual trusts to decide how strict they will be.
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) has warned that visitation will remain “strictly limited”, with visits allowed only for end of life care, birthing partners and parents or carers of children.
These visitors will from today be required to wear a face covering, as will outpatients and hospital staff.
No-one will be denied care if they do not have a mask – people are advised to bring their own, but coverings will be provided by the hospital if necessary.
• Why is it a face covering and not a face mask?
With the sourcing of PPE having been difficult in the past, the government wants to keep surgical masks for medical use.
In order to prevent the wider public from purchasing large quantities of medical-grade masks and making it difficult for health staff and organisations to source them, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said people should wear “the kind of face covering you can easily make at home”.
Numerous household items can be turned into a face covering, with pretty much anything which covers your mouth and nose being deemed acceptable.
• Where can I buy a locally-made face covering?
A number of businesses in Norfolk have adapted their operations to start producing face coverings, while some are simply being made by hobbyists and every day people just looking for something to do.
A list of some of them can be found here.
• Do face coverings actually work?
There is some doubt around this, with some leading experts unconvinced that face coverings actually do much to protect a person from the virus.
The government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has previously said the evidence on face masks “has always been quite variable, quite weak and difficult to know”.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says that a non-medical mask has a filter efficiency of between two and 38pc.
Still, the WHO recommends that anyone in an enclosed environment should wear one, as they can act as “a barrier for potentially infectious droplets”.