Where you do (and don’t) have to wear a face mask from 19 July

From Monday 19 July, the UK government has relaxed the rules around lockdown, social distancing and whether you have to wear a face mask. In what is now widely being referred to as ‘Freedom Day’, 19 July in England will see establishments like clubs, theatres and sporting venues opening to full capacity, no limit on the number of people who can attend weddings, funerals and other life events and a lifting of the instruction to work from home.

Among this, there will no longer be a legal requirement to wear a face mask in England, although the government is continuing to advise that you wear one in enclosed or crowded spaces, and businesses have the power to enforce their own health and safety rules, which can include asking staff and customers to wear a face mask.

As always, the rules/guidance (or lack of) have left us in a state of perplexity as to when and where exactly we should be wearing a face mask. Of course, if you want to continue wearing a face mask indoors, you still have every right to do so. If you are sick of them, we’d suggest not throwing out your trusty face mask stash just yet as who knows if face mask-wearing will be made a legal requirement again in the future (in winter, for example). And, as businesses can impose their own face mask-wearing rules, we’d suggest still carrying one with you at all times to avoid being caught out.

Here is what we know so far about where you have to wear a face mask in the UK…

Where you have to wear a face mask in the UK from 19 July

Public transport

National rail and bus operators have said they will not require passengers to wear face masks, but London mayor Sadiq Khan has confirmed that face mask-wearing will remain compulsory on all TfL modes of transport, including underground and overground trains, busses and trams. Staff can refuse you entry to a station or ask you to alight the train or bus if you do not comply with this rule.

In Greater Manchester, mayor Andy Burnham has said he hasn’t yet ruled out introducing similarly requirements on the city’s trams.

Eurostar has also confirmed passengers will be required to wear face masks when travelling on their trains.

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Supermarkets and other shops

Tesco and Sainsbury’s have announced they will be asking customers to wear a face mask when shopping in their stores.

Waitrose and John Lewis have also revealed that they will be recommending that customers and employees continue to wear a face covering, unless exempt. The decision to do so or not will be for each individual to make.

Aldi, Morrisons, Asda and Iceland have all given statements that confirm they are currently updating their policies following the government’s confirmation of restriction easing.

Most other retail chains have stayed shtum so far, except for Waterstones who has announced it will continue to ask shoppers to wear masks. A statement from the nationwide bookseller read: ‘Given our enclosed browsing environment, we encourage our customers to wear face masks and observe social distancing, respecting the safety of staff and fellow book lovers.’

The shopworkers union Usdaw has said that masks should continue to be mandatory for shoppers, to protect staff, so we expect to see a few more statements from other leading brands over the next few days.

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Pubs and restaurants

Wearing a mask while sitting at your table has not been compulsory for some time (it’s hard to get a fork in your mouth with a mask on), however up until now it has been required that we wear them when moving around a pub or restaurant. This all changes on 19 July, however individual businesses can impose their own rules and you may be asked to pop a mask on to get to your table or nip to the loo, so we’d suggest keeping one in your handbag just in case.

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Hospitals

As face masks are worn to control the spread of Coronavirus and its many new strains, it’s not surprising that Public Health England has announced that hospitals and GPs will be able to insist on face coverings from 19 July onwards.

Air travel

Got a flight booked? Lucky thing. You’ll be interested to know then that airlines including Ryanair, British Airways, easyJet and Wizz Air have all announced they will continue to require face masks to be worn. British Airways said: ‘While we keep our policies under constant review, the safety of our customers and colleagues is always our priority, and we have no immediate plans to change our mask policy.’

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Schools

Face masks have not been a mandatory requirement for students or staff in classrooms and communal areas since May, but new guidance allows their reintroduction in certain areas if a regional spike occurs.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The above advice applies to those living in England. In Scotland, mandatory face mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces is staying the norm for now; in Wales, face masks will continue to be required except for in hospitality settings such as pubs and restaurants from 7 August; in Northern Ireland, subject to approval, from 26 July, face masks will not be compulsory in places of worship or students in classrooms, but will remain mandatory on public transport, in shops and hospitality venues.