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What are the rules and guidance for face masks and coverings from 19 July?

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Face coverings are no longer legally required in England.

But that’s not the end of masks. Other parts of the UK have different rules and some shops and transport will still require them.

In England, the legal requirement to wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces has ended. But government guidance says it “expects and recommends” the continued wearing of masks in crowded areas such as public transport

Face coverings must still be worn in other parts of the UK, so you could be fined if you break the rules:

In Scotland, masks must still be worn in shops and on public transport – as well as pubs and restaurants when not seated. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said rules on face coverings will remain in place “in all likelihood” for some timeIn Wales, masks are still legally required in all public indoor areas, apart from when seated to eat or drink. If there is a move to alert level zero on 7 August, masks will still be required in most public places and on public transportIn Northern Ireland from 26 July (if plans are approved on 22 July) face coverings will no longer be compulsory in places of worship, or for students in school classrooms. They must still be worn on public transport and in shops and hospitality venues

Businesses and travel operators can set their own rules for customers and passengers.

For example, Transport for London will make wearing a face covering a condition for travel on its services, like the Underground and buses.

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In some areas there could be different rules depending on which transport you are using.

For example, in Greater Manchester, mayor Andy Burnham requires face coverings on trams. He also wants them to be worn on other city transport like buses, but these are privately run.

Other operators have announced plans:

Train operator Greater Anglia want passengers to wear face coverings during busy timesBrittany Ferries continue to require face coveringsBritish Airways, EasyJet, Virgin and Ryanair, say masks are required

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Many shops in England are still deciding whether to enforce their own rules.

But some have announced they still want shoppers to wear masks, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waterstones.

Most people could be refused service, entry or the right to travel if a firm enforces a requirement to wear a face covering.

Companies decide their own health and safety measures and insisting on masks could be a reasonable rule, says Adam Wagner, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers.

However, they would not be able to discriminate. So, if you are currently exempt from wearing a mask – for example if you have breathing difficulties – companies would probably have to continue to honour that exemption, says Mr Wagner.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors is calling for the continued use of masks.

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance have said they will continue to wear them.

Evidence suggests transmission mainly happens indoors where people are close together.

Face coverings worn over the nose and mouth reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking.

The main purpose is to protect others. If everyone wears one, the risks drop for all.

There is some evidence they offer protection to wearers, but are not a replacement for social distancing and hand-washing.

Masks can also help reduce virus spread from contagious people with no symptoms.

Cutting virus transmission is important because many people are not fully vaccinated.

Also, some new virus variants appear more transmissible.

Make sure it:

has a nose wirehas at least two/three layers of materialfits snugly over mouth, nose and chin

The highest level of protection is provided by FFP3 (or similar) masks worn by healthcare workers in high risk settings. A recent study found FFP3 masks provided up to 100% protection against Covid.

Hospital staff wearing standard surgical masks were much more likely to catch the virus.

Members of the public can buy FFP3 masks, but they won’t provide the highest protection unless fitted correctly.

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