Face masks UK: Who is exempt from wearing face masks?

Face masks are compulsory in Scotland, but England is now following suit and is due to make masks and covering mandatory in some places across the UK. Express.co.uk has compiled a guide to explain who is exempt from this mandatory requirement to wear masks and coverings in places around England.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has mandated all people must wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets in England from July 24.

Mr Hancock said the move will “give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protections for those who work in shops”.

Since mid-May, members of the public have been advised to wear coverings in enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible.

Wearing a face covering has been mandatory on public transport and NHS facilities in England since June 15.


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Mr Hancock told the Commons: “The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75 percent higher amongst men and 60 percent higher amongst women than in the general population.”

He added: “There is also evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop.”

In addition, he said those refusing to comply could be hit with a fine of £100.

Mr Hancock said: “The liability for wearing a face-covering lies with the individual.

“Should an individual without an exemption refuse to wear a face covering, a shop can refuse them entry and can call the police if people refuse to comply.

“The police have formal enforcement powers and can issue a fine.”

Who is exempt from wearing face masks?

According to the official Government guidance, the following are exempt from wearing masks:

  • A child under the age of 11
  • An employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
  • Any other person providing services to the transport operator, under arrangements made with the transport operator, who is providing those services
  • A constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An emergency responder such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An official, for example, a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
  • If you are allocated a cabin, berth or other similar accommodation, at any time when you are in that accommodation, either alone, or only with members of your own household or a linked household
  • If you are onboard public transport but remain in your private vehicle, for example on a car ferry.

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There are also a number of instances which the Government describes as a “reasonable excuse” where one does not need to wear a mask, including:

  • Those with a physical or mental illness or impairment
  • Those with a disability which means they cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
  • Those who face severe distress due to putting on, wearing or removing a face covering
  • Those who rely on lip-reading for communication or who provide assistance to or travel with these individuals
  • Those who are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm
  • Those who need to remove it to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
  • Those who need to eat, drink or take medication are permitted to remove their face covering
  • Those asked to remove their covering by the police or other officials
  • Those with autism.

How to make your own face mask

The easiest way to fashion your own face mask is to use a folding cloth and elastic bands.

Using a bandana or handkerchief measuring 20 inches squared (50cm x 50cm), you should lay it out flat and then fold in half.

Next, you should fold the top third down, fold the bottom up to meet.

Then you should thread through two elastic bands around 4.7 inches (12cm) apart.

Finally, you should fold each side into the middle and tuck them into the folds.

How to wear your mask

To wear your mask or covering effectively, you should:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth at all times
  • Store used face coverings in a plastic bag until you have had a chance to wash them
  • Wash your face covering regularity using normal detergent.

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