Face mask exemptions: Valid reasons for NOT wearing a covering explained

ON JULY 19, it will no longer be mandatory to wear face masks in pubs, restaurants and shops – but it will be necessary for some transport.

What are the current mask rules and where will we still have to wear them after restrictions ease?

Where will you still have to wear a face mask after July 19?

In England, passengers on London's transport network have been told they must continue wearing masks, even after it stops being law to do so in, as decided by London Mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Individual businesses and travel operators – such as Sadiq Khan, who runs London's transport network – can impose their own rules.

Greater Manchester's mayor Andy Burnham says he isn't ruling out introducing similar requirements on the city's tram network.

British Airways, EasyJet, Virgin and Ryanair, have also said masks will still be required for air travel.

How will face covering rules change in England?

The legal requirement to wear a face covering in shops, public transport and other enclosed public spaces will end on 19 July. It will be replaced with government guidance.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government "expects and recommends" that face coverings are worn in crowded and enclosed spaces.

Labour has said it is "irresponsible" to drop the legal requirement to wear masks.

The shop-workers' union Usdaw says masks should continue to be mandatory for shoppers, to protect staff.

What has been announced in the rest of the UK?

In Scotland, the mandatory wearing of face coverings will remain in place "in all likelihood" for some time to come, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The rules apply in shops and public transport – as well as pubs and restaurants when not seated.

Ms Sturgeon said it would give "added protection and assurance" to people who were particularly vulnerable – as well as the population as a whole.

In Wales, they will remain mandatory on public transport and in health/social care settings, but ministers are undecided on rules in shops

In Northern Ireland, some rules could be relaxed on 26 July (subject to 22 July approval)

What if I refuse to wear a face covering?

You could be refused service, entry or the right to travel if a firm enforces a requirement to wear a face covering.

Companies decide their own health and safety measures and insisting on masks could be a reasonable rule, says Adam Wagner, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers.

If you took your mask off once inside a building or train, staff would also have the right to ask you to leave.

Who is exempt from wearing a face mask?

While masks are compulsory in most public settings until July 19, there are exceptions to those who need to wear them.

According to the official Government guidance, the following groups are not required to wear a face-covering while using public transport, in a shop, pub or restaurant:

  • A child under the age of 11
  • People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • An employee of the transport operator, or in any other indoor setting where appropriate when they are acting in the course of their employment
  • Where a mask causes the wearer severe distress
  • An emergency responder such as a police officer, paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • Someone speaking to or helping anyone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
  • Someone acting to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to themselves or others – including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity

What is a face mask exemption card and how can you get one?

Those who are exempted from wearing a face mask could be asked to show a "face-covering exemption" ID of some sort.

This is a personal choice, and is not necessary in law.

The government says that this could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

The travel exemption card is available to download for free on the TfL website, and can be used with other operators.

Alternatively you can download and print one for general use here.

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