| 12.9°C Belfast

Where and when should I wear face coverings?

The PA news agency examines the key questions surrounding the Government’s new rules regarding face coverings.

Close

A man wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop in central London displaying a notice advising passengers to wear a face covering on public transport (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

A man wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop in central London displaying a notice advising passengers to wear a face covering on public transport (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

A man wearing a protective face mask waits at a bus stop in central London displaying a notice advising passengers to wear a face covering on public transport (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Planned Government regulations will soon require face coverings to be worn by all hospital outpatients and visitors as well as anyone travelling on public transport in England.

Before the new rules come into effect on June 15, here is what you need to know about the use of masks and coverings.

– What is a face covering?

Face coverings are not the same as face masks. The Government has stated that coverings can be made from scarves, bandanas or other fabric items, so long as they cover the mouth and nose.

They should allow the wearer to breathe comfortably and be tied behind the head to provide a “snug fit”.

Officials have said people can make their own coverings at home using T-shirts or cotton fabric and string.

– Why are they being recommended?

The Government states that, while wearing a face covering does not protect the wearer, it may protect others if people are infected but have not yet developed symptoms.

People wearing a covering should wash their hands before putting it on and after taking it off.

It should also be washed regularly in the laundry with detergent, the Government said.

– When should I wear a face covering?

According to new World Health Organisation (WHO) advice, face coverings should be worn in public whenever social distancing is not possible, especially if you are over 60-years-old or have an underlying health condition.

However this is not yet compulsory.

– Are there any specific locations that require me to wear a face covering?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Friday all hospital visitors and outpatients will be required to wear face coverings and all hospital staff will be required to wear surgical masks in England from June 15.

Face coverings will also be mandatory from the same date for anyone using public transport in England.

Several airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair have also introduced a requirement for passengers to wear face masks.

– What about face masks?

People have been asked not to use medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) masks to ensure these remain available for frontline health staff.

Close

Passengers wear face masks on a Central Line underground train in London (Victoria Jones/PA)

Passengers wear face masks on a Central Line underground train in London (Victoria Jones/PA)

PA

Passengers wear face masks on a Central Line underground train in London (Victoria Jones/PA)

– How will the public transport measures be enforced?

While announcing the measures, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told reporters that it will be enforced by transport operators and British Transport Police “if necessary”.

He said that changes would be made to the conditions of travel for trains and buses, adding: “This will mean that you can be refused travel if you don’t comply and you could be fined.”

Meanwhile, a Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said that although members of the public are “strongly urged” to attend hospital wearing a face covering, no one will be denied care and masks will be provided by the hospital if necessary.

– Are there any exemptions?

There will be exemptions to the rules for very young children, disabled people and those with breathing difficulties.

– What if I’m travelling on a train from Wales or Scotland to England?

Mr Shapps has suggested that passengers on trains starting outside England may have to put on coverings when crossing the border.

He said it would be up to Scotland and Wales to issue their own guidance. But earlier on Thursday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that her government is “considering making it mandatory” to wear face coverings on public transport and in shops.

– If I develop Covid-19 symptoms, can I still go out if I wear a mask or covering?

No. People with coronavirus symptoms and their household should isolate at home.

– What is the science?

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) thinks the evidence of masks preventing the spread of infection from one person to another is “marginal but positive”.

The WHO has stressed that there is no evidence that wearing a mask – whether medical or other types – by healthy persons in the wider community can prevent them from infection with respiratory viruses, including Covid-19.

– Are there any downsides to using face coverings?

Concerns have been raised that they could give a false sense of security and mean that people are less stringent with other preventative measures such as social distancing and hand hygiene.

PA