What Will The New Rules On Face Masks Mean For Our Everyday Life?

From supermarkets to public transport, here's where you still need to wear a mask.

Woman wearing mask

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

This morning, lockdown restrictions were eased entirely - meaning mask wearing is no longer mandated by the government.

Despite this, Sadiq Khan announced last week that after conversations with TFL, they had agreed that masks will continue to be compulsory on public transport in London. It comes after Boris Johnson urged the public to be cautious.

Of course, now everyone is confused. 'Do we have to wear masks from Monday?' is a breakout search term on Google, plus 'Which supermarkets are keeping masks?'. People also still seem to be confused about their efficacy, asking 'Do masks protect against variants?' as a trending search term too.

So, what’s the deal then, when can we stop wearing face masks?

Well, the government has told us we no longer have to wear face masks from the 19th of July, but what there's a difference between being legally obligated to wear a mask and still choosing to wear one to protect the people around you.

What are the rules for face masks on public transport?

That's why Sadiq Khan wants face masks to remain mandatory on London tubes, buses and other transport, in order to protect vulnerable people and key workers from the rise in coronavirus cases and variants as we continue to ease lockdown.

'After careful consideration, I’ve asked Tfl to keep the requirement to wear face coverings on public transport as a condition of travel after 19 July,' the London mayor tweeted. 'Mandatory face masks will give passengers reassurance and protect both them and our heroic transport workers.'

Khan expressed his interest in maintaining mandatory face masks on public transport earlier this week, explaining that 'it is important that we continue to follow the science around the extent to which they limit transmission on transport and in busy indoor spaces.

'Evidence shows that the wearing of face masks gives many Londoners the confidence that they can travel safely on public transport,' he continued. 'People feeling confident they can travel on our Tubes, buses and trains as they get busier will be a vital part of encouraging more people into central London as restrictions are lifted further.'

The position to continue wearing masks on transport and in crowded places is one a number of MPs and government scientists have taken publicly in recent days - reiterating the need for caution as we move forward.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Care Minister Helen Whately said she was 'looking forward to not having to wear a face mask so much' but that she would not ditch them 'entirely'.

'I anticipate there may be times where it is appropriate to wear it if I am somewhere that’s crowded, that might make sense,' the said - adding that she would continue to wear them on busy trains.

Which supermarkets are keeping masks?

Well, now the government has scrapped the mandate for masks, it's up the each individual chain to decide on their own rules. Many however, are keeping them.

Asda has officially stated they will no longer require shoppers to wear masks, but they will be 'encouraged' to. Sainsbury's has too said it will be 'up to the individual'.

Tesco on the other hand - which is a hot trending topic in itself with 'Tesco policy on face masks' now trending, are carrying out an internal review into their mask policy. Currently, their website still states they will not allow customers to enter without one.

'To protect our colleagues and customers, we won’t let anyone into our stores who isn’t wearing a face covering, unless they’re exempt in line with government guidance,' it reads. 'Please also make sure that you wear your face covering correctly – covering your mouth and your nose.'

Morrisons and Aldi are understood to be requesting further government guidance before they make an official announcement,

Iceland, Waitrose and Co-op still appear to be deciding on their mask policy, while Lidl and Marks & Spencer are yet to make any announcements about their decision. All of their websites still state that face masks are compulsory right now.

Do face masks protect you against variants? Is it a good idea to stop wearing face masks?

According to the government website, face masks protect others more than they protect the wearer.

'The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others,' the website states.

'Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others from coronavirus (COVID-19) rather than the wearer, they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing,' it continues. 'It is important to follow all the other government advice on coronavirus (COVID-19), including staying safe outside your home.'

According to Dr Emma Luke, NHS doctor and founder of Your Doctor Friend, how long we're required to wear face masks and how long you should wear them are two very different questions.

‘General consensus among experts is that this coronavirus is here to stay and therefore, as infection levels go up and down, the need for public health interventions like face coverings will likely come and go,' she explains.

Should I still wear a face mask?

‘As for how long the public should or will continue to wear face coverings? I think the pandemic may lead to a cultural shift in the West whereby the wearing of face coverings becomes an acceptable and common part of daily life, similar to that seen in East Asia,' Dr Luke continues.

'Any sudden shift in guidance from “wear a face covering” one day to not the next may create a huge amount of anxiety for some people, particularly those with underlying health conditions. For the majority of people simple interventions, like regular hand washing and face coverings, are not overly intrusive and they may therefore choose to continue voluntarily, even when government guidance changes.’

What are the rules on wearing face masks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that for some time to come, the mandatory wearing of face coverings will remain in place 'in all likelihood' becasue it will give 'added protection and assurance' to vulnerable people. That means people will still have to wear them in shops, on public transport and in pubs and restaurants when not seated.

In Wales, face masks will also remain mandatory on public transport and in health and/or social care settings, but the public is still waiting for an official announcement on whether masks are required in shops.

In Northern Ireland, some rules could be relaxed on 26 July (subject to 22 July approval), but there is yet to be an official announcement on mandatory mask wearing.

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