Q1029: Do I have to wear a face mask when I go out?
England only -the law
It is now a legal requirement to wear a face covering when using a public transport service. Failure to do so, without a reasonable excuse, is an offence. Using a public transport service includes boarding the vehicle and any time when on board the vehicle (whether or not for the purposes of travel).
The following people are exempt from the offence and are not required to wear a face covering:
- A child under 11;
- any employee of the operator, acting in course of their employment;
- any person providing services under arrangements with the operator;
- a constable PSCO, emergency responder, or relevant official, acting in their capacity as such;
- a person inside an allocated cabin / berth / accommodation, if they are alone or with members of their household / linked household.
- a person inside a separate vehicle, while using the public transport service.
Reasonable excuses for not wearing a face covering include:
- when a person cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering, due to a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability;
- when a person is travelling with or providing assistance to another person, who relies on lip reading to communicate;
- when a person removes their face covering to avoid harm, injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to themselves or others;
- to eat or drink where it is reasonably necessary to do so;
- to take medication, where removing the face covering is necessary to do so;
- if a relevant person requests a person to remove their face covering
If a person fails to comply with the requirement to wear a face covering, they may be denied access to the vehicle, directed to wear a face covering, or directed to disembark. Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a relevant child is failing to comply with the requirement, a direction may be issued to the individual who has responsibility for the child to ensure that the child complies with the requirement. A constable may remove a passenger from a relevant vehicle, using reasonable force if necessary, if they fail to comply with a direction to disembark from the vehicle.
Failing to comply with the above requirement is an offence and can result in a fine (at court) or a Fixed Penalty Notice (see Q1054).
The 'emergency period' began on 26th March 2020. An end date has not yet been specified, but this is being reviewed at least every 28 days in England.
The Government are advising that if you can you should wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces where social distancing isn't possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas. You should be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so by police officers and staff for the purposes of identification. See link in related information for further detail.
You should also wear a face covering when attending hospital either as an outpatient or a visitor. Hospitals will be able to provide a face covering in emergencies.
In Wales, there is no legal requirement to wear a face mask on public transport although it is recommended to use a three-layer face covering. In addition where it might be difficult to stay 2m away from others, you are also advised to use three-layer, non-medical face coverings.