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Rules on face coverings explained as they're made mandatory in shops in England

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Face coverings will be made mandatory in England's shops and supermarkets from Friday 24 July in a screeching Tory U-turn.

Just hours after Michael Gove told people to use "common sense", Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to announce the move today in the Commons.

Police will be expected to enforce the law - and there will be £100 fines for those who refuse.

It comes more than two months after the government first recommended wearing a face covering in indoor spaces to prevent passing Covid-19 to others.

But amid mixed messaging, many people are still not wearing them - so Boris Johnson has decided to act.

Here's what the new rules will mean and how they will affect you.

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Where do I need to wear a face covering?

Since May 11, government guidance in England has advised the public to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, where they may come into contact with people they wouldn’t usually meet.

These can include shops and public transport.

The use of face coverings became mandatory on public transport in England from June 15.

But until now, the government has refused calls to make them compulsory in shops. Barely 24 hours ago, Cabinet minister Michael Give urged people to use "common sense" instead.

What is changing?

From Friday 24 July, face coverings will become mandatory in England in shops and supermarkets.

This will be written into law and there will be £100 fines for those who refuse to wear a mask.

Do face coverings actually work?

Rules on face coverings explained as they're made mandatory in shops in England  第5张Boris Johnson has acted after days of mixed messaging about masks (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Scientific evidence suggests face coverings help prevent you from passing coronavirus on to other people if you are sick.

It does not protect you from breathing in the virus unless it is a full-blown piece of medical PPE - something which is not recommended.

If you have symptoms, you should be self-isolating at home, but many people get Covid-19 without symptoms and can spread it rapidly.

One SAGE member suggested the virus can linger potent in the air for an hour after being breathed out in an indoor, badly-ventilated space.

The UK government initially feared the added risk of handling and fiddling with a face mask could outweigh the benefits. But it's performed a U-turn.

Face coverings are not, however, a substitute for social distancing - you should do both.

Are there any exemptions?

Rules on face coverings explained as they're made mandatory in shops in England  第6张Children under the age of 11 will not be required by law to wear a mask

Yes. As with public transport, children under 11 will not have to wear a face covering.

Those who can't affix a face covering without suffering severe distress, or who have difficulty using it due to a physical or mental disability, are also exempt.

It is thought other exemptions will follow the list already used on public transport.

These exceptions include anyone who is being relied on by a deaf person for lipreading; police or public transport staff; emergency responders; or people while they are taking medication.

Sources suggest there will also be some types of shop that are exempt from the blanket policy.

Will it be the law, or just 'guidance'?

It will be the law.

Regulations will be made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 - the same law used as the basis for many lockdown restrictions.

Is it a mask, or just a 'covering'?

Rules on face coverings explained as they're made mandatory in shops in England  第7张All train users apart from children and those with certain medical conditions already have to cover their faces (Image: Getty)

The law will define a face "covering". This is not a surgical mask and can be a piece of cloth.

It must however cover your nose and mouth.

The government has a guide to making your own, or they can be bought relatively cheaply from many shops or online.

How much can I be fined?

Those caught by police contravening the law will be fined £100, reducing to £50 if paid within 14 days.

Unlike previous lockdown laws, this £100 fine will not double on each repeat offence. It remains fixed at £100 each time.

Can I be arrested if I don't agree?

Rules on face coverings explained as they're made mandatory in shops in England  第8张People who obstruct officers or refuse to comply can currently be prosecuted (Image: PA)

It's not yet clear, but it seems possible.

Government sources stressed the punishment will be a £100 fine, but added the law will be similar to that used on public transport.

On public transport, those who obstruct or ignore orders from police "without reasonable excuse" commit an offence and can be prosecuted.

Will shop assistants have to enforce the law?

Enforcement will be carried out by the police.

Downing Street said that while shop employees should encourage compliance, retailers and businesses will not be expected to enforce the policy.

It is not yet clear if police will be expected to patrol supermarkets. When lockdown was first introduced, some officers threatened to check people's shopping for "non-essential" items, prompting outrage.

What about pubs and restaurants?

Punters at pubs, restaurants and hotels are not currently being told to use face coverings.

Guidance for these settings will be kept under review.

What about Wales and Scotland?

Face coverings are already compulsory on public transport and in shops in Scotland.

They will become mandatory on public transport in Wales from July 27.

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