As coronavirus restrictions ease around the UK, some different rules on face coverings will apply.
For example, secondary school pupils in England no longer need to use them in class.
Can everyone stop wearing them?
Once more people have had a vaccine and more is known about how well vaccines stop Covid transmission, other measures such as face coverings, can be reviewed – the government says.
The final stage out of lockdown is meant to begin no earlier than 21 June. However, it is not yet clear whether it will include scrapping face coverings entirely.
They might still be needed in some circumstances and particularly during winter. Some people may opt to wear them, even if they are not compulsory.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hopes they would become the norm on public transport as a matter of “personal responsibility”.
Where are they still needed?
People in the UK are asked to wear them where social distancing is not possible and the virus could easily pass between people – for example on public transport, or in shops.
Cutting transmission is important because the virus is still circulating and many people are yet to be protected by vaccination.
In England and Northern Ireland police can issue a £200 fine for not following the rules. In Scotland and Wales, a £60 fine can be imposed. Repeat offenders face bigger fines.
The exact rules can be seen here for:
Why should I wear a mask?
Face coverings reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking.
The main purpose is to protect other people from coronavirus, rather than yourself. If everyone wears one, the risk for all goes down.
When worn correctly, they should cover the nose and mouth.
They can help to reduce the spread of the virus from people who are contagious, including those who have no symptoms.
What are the rules on masks at school around the UK?
Secondary school pupils in England are no longer required to wear face coverings. However, individual schools may still insist that their pupils still continue to do so.
- In Scotland, staff and pupils in high schools should wear face coverings in classrooms, communal areas and corridors
- In Wales, face coverings are recommended in secondary schools when social distancing is unlikely to be maintained
- In Northern Ireland, face coverings must be worn in post-primary schools and on public and school transport
Face covering, mask or both?
Tips for the wearer include:
- Choose a mask or face covering with a nose wire
- Check it fits snugly over the mouth, nose and chin
- Make sure it has at least a couple of layers
- Tie a knot in the ear loops of surgical masks to make a better fit
The highest level of protection is provided by FFP3 (or similar) masks worn by healthcare workers in high risk settings to safely do their job.
Cloth face coverings do not give the wearer as much protection.
But the World Health Organization says it has no plans to change its guidance recommending fabric face masks for the general public.
Who is exempt from wearing face masks?
- Children (under 11 in England or Wales, under 13 in Northern Ireland, under five in Scotland)
- Those unable to put on or wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or disability
- People for whom wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress
- Anyone assisting someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
Young children should not wear face masks because of the risk of choking and suffocation.
Can I make one myself?
What do I need to know about the coronavirus?
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