Wearing a face covering

Government advice and guidance on wearing a face covering or mask from 24 July 2020 on public transport and in shops or supermarkets.

woman putting on face maskA face covering needs to safely cover your nose and mouth in order to be effective. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.

What are the rules? 

In England, you must by law wear a face covering in the following settings:

  • Public Transport
  • Shops and Supermarkets as of 24 July 2020

The government advice also strongly encourages you to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

However, there are situations where people do not have to wear a face mask. We have listed these below so that you can print this off and carry it with you to show people if you need to. We have also created some simple cards you could print and cut out to carry with you.

Exemptions to wearing a face covering

In settings where face coverings are mandated in England, there are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, whereby people are not expected to wear face coverings in these settings. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings.

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:

  • young children under the age of 11
  • not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • to eat or drink, but only if you need to take medication
  • if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked. Including: 

  • if asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification
  • if speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication

If you have a legitimate reason not to wear a face covering, you can download an Exemption Card' to carry with you. The card explains the Government’s guidance.

Disposal of face coverings

Personal protective equipment (PPE) items such as disposable face masks and gloves cannot be recycled in Suffolk, so need to be placed in your general rubbish bin.

Any individuals who are self-isolating, either as a precaution or because they are confirmed to have Coronavirus, should follow this advice to get rid of their household waste to ensure the virus is not spread:

  • Individuals should place all personal waste such as personal protective equipment (PPE), used tissues and disposable cleaning cloths, securely in a plastic bag or bin liner
  • This plastic bag should then be placed in another plastic bag and securely tied
  • These bags must be stored separately to other waste for at least 72 hours before being placed in the general rubbish collection

News relating to face coverings