In response to the Omicron variant arising, the public and staff in public facing areas will be required to wear face coverings in these settings from 4am on 30 November 2021:
- Shops and supermarkets (places that offer goods or services for retail sale or hire).
- Shopping centres (malls and indoor markets).
- Auction houses.
- Post offices, banks, building societies, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses.
- Estate and letting agents.
- Premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (barbers, hair salons, tattoo and piercing studios, nail salons, massage centres).
- Premises providing veterinary services.
- Retail galleries.
- Retail travel agents.
- Takeaways without space for consumption of food or drink on premises.
- Public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses), taxis and private hire vehicles.
- Any car, van or HGV, during a professional driving lesson, a formal driving test, or during one of the practical tests for giving driving instruction.
What a face covering is
In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a face covering is something which securely covers the nose and mouth. There are many types of face coverings available:
- Cloth face coverings and disposable face coverings work best if they are made with multiple layers (at least 2) and form a good fit around the face.
- Bandanas or religious garments may be used but are likely to be less effective if they do not fit securely around the face.
Face coverings should be made of a material that you find comfortable and breathable, such as cotton.
Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment) which is used in a limited number of settings to protect wearers against hazards and risks, such as surgical masks or respirators used in medical and industrial settings.
Wearing a face covering can reduce the risk to others and yourself against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of the virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).
If you’re not able to wear a face covering
Face coverings are expected and recommended in indoor spaces where you come into contact with people. However, there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering.
Please be respectful of these situations. Some people are less able to wear face coverings. The reasons for this may not always be visible.
This includes (but is not limited to):
- Children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons).
- People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability.
- Where the putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress.
- Instances where people are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate.
- To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others.
- Police officers and other emergency workers – this may interfere with their ability to serve the public.
Some people may feel more comfortable if they are able to show something that explains why they’re not wearing a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.
You can then print these yourself or show them on a mobile device. Please note that the government is not able to provide physical exemption cards or badges.
If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of these templates in a more accessible format, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please say what format you need the template in and what assistive technology you use.
There are also situations when you may be asked to remove a face covering, for example:
- For identification purposes.
- For assessing health.
- If required to receive treatment or services.
Making your own face covering
If you want to make your own face covering, instructions are widely available online. We do not endorse any particular method but be considerate of materials and fabrics that may irritate different skin types.
Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission may be reduced by using thicker fabrics or multiple layers. However, the face covering should still be breathable.
Children should make face coverings under the supervision of an adult. Their face coverings should be secured to the head using ear loops only.
If you would like more information on how to make a face covering with materials from around your home please visit the Big Community Sew website. Here you will find step-by-step video tutorials on how to make face coverings and other useful tips and advice.
Maintaining and disposing of face coverings
- Do not touch the front of the face covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose.
- Once removed, store reusable face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them. If the face covering is single use, dispose of it in a residual waste bin. Do not put them in a recycling bin.
- Make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched using normal household cleaning products. If eating in a cafe, for example, it is important that you do not place the face covering on the table.
- Wash your face covering regularly and follow the washing instructions for the fabric. You can use your normal detergent. You can wash and dry it with other laundry. You must throw away your face covering if it is damaged.