Covid: Masks to Become Mandatory in England from Tuesday

Mandatory mask-wearing will return to shops and public transport in England this week, following three confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the UK.

The new rules come as Government takes action to try to tackle the Omicron coronavirus variant that has been detected in the UK.

Changes in enforcing new measures was announced by Boris Johnson at a Downing Street press conference on Saturday, 27 November, after Omicron cases were confirmed in Nottinghamshire and Brentwood, Essex.

Health Secretary, Sajid Javid gave more detail on Sunday, 28 November, when he said the masks rule would apply from 4am on Tuesday and would better align England with ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland.

Fines of £200 will be handed out to people in England who fail to wear masks on public transport and in shops. The fines will double with every offence, rising to £400 for a second violation and £800 for a third, facing up to a maximum of £6,400.

Who is exempt?

The official government web page for masks had not been updated by Nov 27 to take account of the latest change, but it states the following groups are exempt from wearing a mask:

  • children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of three, for health and safety reasons)
  • people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • where the putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress
  • instances where people are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • police officers and other emergency workers – this may interfere with their ability to serve the public

Mr Johnson said the measures would be reviewed in three weeks – just days before Christmas – as he warned Omicron appears to spread “very rapidly”, can transmit between the double-vaccinated, and may partially reduce the protection offered by existing vaccines.

Click here for more guidance on face coverings.