From today (10 December), people in England will be legally required to wear face masks in most indoor venues.
The Government has brought back the measures as part of its bid to halt the spread of the Omicron Covid variant, for which it also announced its Plan B winter measures this week.
Face coverings have been a part of daily life for people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland throughout the pandemic.
But after England celebrated ‘freedom day’ at the end of the third national lockdown, they ceased to be mandatory in the UK’s largest country. Until now.
Where do I have to wear a face mask?
Here’s a full list of the places where you will be required to wear a face mask until at least 5 January 2022 when the Government will review its tougher restrictions on public freedoms:
- Indoor events with at least 500 attendees
- Large outdoor gatherings (e.g. football games) - but only when indoors
- Shops and supermarkets (includes shops in larger premises, e.g. a gift shop inside a museum)
- Shopping centres and indoor markets
- Post offices, banks, building societies, high street solicitors and accountants and all other high street financial service outlets
- Takeaways (where you can’t eat or drink on the premises)
- Auction houses
- Estate and letting agents
- Travel agents
- Premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (e.g. hair salons and tattoo & piercing studios)
- Public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams, buses, coaches and ferries)
- Transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, ports, bus and coach stations)
- Face coverings must also be worn in any car or small van during a professionally delivered driving lesson and a practical driving test
Failure to cover your face could hit you in the pocket, with £200 fines set to be doled out should you not don a mask or other suitable covering in these places.
This fine is set to be doubled for each offence and could land people with an eventual maximum fine of £6,400.
The new measures come ahead of a return to working from home on Monday (13 December) and mandatory Covid passports for large venues from Wednesday (15 December), as the Government’s Plan B comes into force.
The new regulations will be put to a debate and vote in the Commons next Tuesday.
Despite predictions of a major rebellion from backbench Tory MPs during the vote, the measures are expected to pass due to Labour’s support.
There are some potential loopholes in the proposed legislation, with officials appearing to say that shoppers could be allowed to remove their face coverings in supermarkets if they walked around the store singing.
The rules state that someone may take a mask off if it is “reasonably necessary” to sing.
It comes as the UK Health Security Agency said there were a total of 817 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the UK as of Thursday (9 December).
The actual figure of Omicron cases is thought to be much higher, with some estimates putting it at at least 10,000.
Cases of the new Covid variant are believed to be doubling every two or three days, leading virus experts have warned.
Last night, Public Health Scotland urged people to cancel their Christmas parties to prevent the variant’s spread - although the advice in England is for the events to carry on as normal.