As England welcomes an end to coronavirus restrictions on 19 July, many are wondering what the new face mask rules are for transport, shops and hospitals.
Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown has officially come to an end – with Step 4 of the Prime Minister’s plan now in play, marking an end to all legal lockdown restrictions imposed during the pandemic.
Whilst most had hoped for an end to wearing face masks in the UK, many businesses, including those in the transport, health and retail sector, have chosen to implement their own guidelines on face masks going forward. We share the new face mask rules for trains, supermarkets and hospitals.
Face mask rules on trains
Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that it would no longer be a legal requirement to wear masks on public transport from 19 July. The only exception to this rule is in London where Mayor Sadiq Khan has special powers that has allowed him to enforce the wearing of face masks on public transport.
While face masks are no longer compulsory by law across the rest of the country, the Prime Minister is encouraging people to continue to wear them on trains, buses and coaches to help minimise the spread of infection.
“The Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport,” reads a statement on the government website.
The Rail Delivery Group which represents all train and tram operators in the UK have announced they will be following this government guideline from July 19th.
In a statement, the RDG said: “It’s good to see government treating public transport the same as other indoor settings by recommending that face coverings are worn only in crowded spaces, whether that’s on a train or elsewhere.” They added that travel by train is considered “low risk” due to carriages being “well ventilated with air regularly refreshed either by air conditioning systems, or by doors and windows being opened.”
Whilst face masks on trains are recommended across England, they are being legally enforced by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on public transport in the capital.
Mr Khan shared that his decision was based on data that face covering indoors helps reduce the transmission of Covid and variants like the Delta variant. “As long as the virus is still with us, and as long as we’re still concerned about the virus being transmitted, we will make it compulsory,” he said.
In compliance with the Mayor’s comments, a statement from Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that “you must wear a face covering” when using the the Tube, bus, tram, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail networks.
“If you do not, and you are not exempt, you could be refused entry, denied travel or told to leave our stations and services,” they added.
Elsewhere, passengers who use the Metro in the North East are advised to wear face coverings. As are customers on Greater Manchester’s Metrolink tram services.
Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotherham has also asked those in the city to wear coverings on public transport. As has West Midland Mayor Andy Street, who announced: “We are expecting passengers on all modes of public transport to continue to wear face coverings to protect staff and vulnerable passengers.”
Face mask rules in supermarkets
Whilst the government has called an end to mandatory face masks after July 19th, many supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Aldi are encouraging their customers to keep them on whilst shopping in stores. Many will also continue to provide hand sanitiser stations and limit the amount of people in shops at any given time to help minimise infection risks.
Like transport authorities, the government have given permission for retailers to decide their own face mask rules from mid-July. Though these rules are notably more guidance, with shops not having the power to enforce mandatory face masks if an individual is opposed to it.
Sainsbury’s are asking customers to continue to wear face masks in all their stores after July 19th.
“Our colleagues’ safety is vital and many of our colleagues would feel more comfortable if those who can wear face coverings continue to wear them,” says Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts. “We’ve listened closely to our customers too and they are telling us the same. We’re asking everyone to be considerate and, while we understand wearing a face covering will now be a personal choice, we want to ensure we best support and protect each other in the weeks and months ahead.”
Tesco are also encouraging their customers to wear a face mask when shopping after ‘Freedom Day’.
A Tesco spokesperson said: “We’re asking our customers and colleagues to be on the safe side, and so from 19 July we’ll be encouraging our colleagues to wear face coverings whilst they work and encouraging our customers to do the same when they shop with us.”
They added that covid secure measures will remain in place, including hand sanitiser, protective screens and limiting the number of people in store.
Waitrose “recommend” that customers in their stores continue to wear face masks from July onwards.
“In line with government guidance, we will recommend that our customers and partners in England continue to wear a face covering, unless exempt, from July 19,” a spokesperson for the John Lewis Partnership, which also manages Waitrose, said. “The decision over whether to do so or not, when in our shops, will be for each individual to take, based on their own judgment.”
The budget supermarket will continue to display signs that encourage shoppers to wear a mask in stores.
“Although no longer legally required, the government recommends that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded or indoor spaces and we will have signage in place at store entrances reminding our customers of this,” a Lidl spokesperson shared. “The Perspex screens at checkouts and hand sanitising stations will also remain in place across all our stores for the time being as we gradually enter this next phase.”
Those picking up their Aldi wine and other groceries in store are encouraged to keep their face covering on post-July.
“From Monday 19th July, we’ll continue to encourage customers and colleagues to wear face coverings when they’re in store,” an Aldi spokesperson said. “Other measures like hand sanitiser and screens will also stay in place.”
Asda are also aware that face masks are a personal choice from July 19th, though they “encourage customers to be respectful to each other” when shopping in store.
The supermarket chain will continue to display signs and make store announcements encouraging face masks. They’ll also provide free face coverings at the front of the store for those wish to wear one still.
Supermarket Morrisons have asked everyone who shops in stores to wear a face mask after July 19th.
“In England, while face coverings will no longer be a legal requirement, guidance encourages everyone to wear one in crowded areas,” Morrisons said in a statement. “We will encourage all customers and colleagues to follow this guidance in-store, to maintain social distancing and to exercise their own judgment.
Face mask rules in hospitals
NHS England have confirmed that both staff and patients must continue to wear face coverings after July 19th.
These face mask rules apply in hospitals. Plus other health centres such as GP surgeries, dental practices, pharmacies and optometrists.
“Face coverings and social distancing measures will remain in place across healthcare settings so that the most vulnerable people can continue to safely attend hospital, their GP surgery, pharmacy or any other healthcare settings for advice, care and treatment,” says Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England.
Ms May’s statement was backed by health minister Jo Churchill and other representatives from medical trusts across England.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges added: “It is absolutely right that basic infection prevention and control measures stay in place in healthcare settings. Simple steps such as wearing a face mask and keeping a safe distance away from others are a minor inconvenience but could have a profound positive impact when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable and I strongly support the chief nurse with this clear reminder.”
In addition to face coverings, hand sanitation and social distancing is encouraged when visiting hospitals, GP surgeries and other health venues.
What if I am exempt from wearing a face mask?
As was the case when face coverings were mandatory, those that are exempt will not need to provide proof when shopping or travelling.
Whilst shops, hospitals and public transport have ‘encouraged’ face mask use past July 19, these guidelines are not legally binding. And so those that do not wear a mask will not be refused entry or discriminated against.
If you however wish to carry an exemption card which outlines that you are exempt for age or health reasons, you can download your template from the government website.