Who is exempt from wearing a face mask as Morrisons & Sainsbury’s make masks mandatory?

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Face masks are a part of daily life for most Britons. Masks are proven to help curtail the spread of coronavirus and with the new coronavirus variant which is more easily transmissible, protection via face masks is more important than ever. Supermarket giant Morrisons has announced plans to bar customers who refuse to wear face coverings – but what are the legal rules for wearing face masks?

Morrisons will ban entry to its outlets when customers are not wearing face coverings.

From Monday, shoppers who refuse to wear face masks offered by staff will be banned from coming inside the story, unless they are medically exempt from wearing one.

Morrisons said it had “introduced and consistently maintained thorough and robust safety measures in all our stores” since the start of the pandemic.

But it said: “From today we are further strengthening our policy on masks.”

Sainsbury’s Chief Executive, Simon Roberts, said today: “I’ve spent a lot of time in our stores reviewing the latest situation over the last few days and on behalf of all my colleagues, I am asking our customers to help us keep everyone safe.

“The vast majority of customers are shopping safely, but I have also seen some customers trying to shop without a mask and shopping in larger family groups.

“Please help us to keep all our colleagues and customers safe by always wearing a mask and by shopping alone.

“Everyone’s care and consideration matters now more than ever.”

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged Britons to adhere to lockdown rules and today praised Morrisons for its stringent action.

He said: “It isn’t just about the government and the rules we set, or the police and the work that they do – it’s about how everybody behaves.

“I applaud the action Morrisons has taken today, the supermarket, they have said that they will not let people in without a mask unless they clearly have a medical reason.

“That’s the right approach and I want to see all parts of society playing their part in this.”

The announcement came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned tougher restrictions could be implemented if people fail to adhere to lockdown rules.

He said: “This is a very perilous moment because everybody can sense that the vaccine is coming in and they can see that the UK is vaccinating large numbers of those that need it most.

“My worry is… that this is the moment when that degree of false confidence, false complacency, and that when you look at what has happened in the NHS that complacency is not merited.”

The PM added: “We have a very tough fight on our hands.”

Morrisons chief executive David Potts said: “Those who are offered a face covering and decline to wear one won’t be allowed to shop at Morrisons unless they are medically exempt.

“Our store colleagues are working hard to feed you and your family, please be kind.”

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Experts believe restrictions could be tightened in a number of ways including making it a legal requirement for supermarkets to require face masks.

Other measures could include closing nursery schools, shutting places of worship, banning all household mixing and making face masks compulsory in offices, queues and other crowded places outdoors.

Mr Johnson said: “We need to enforce the rules in supermarkets.

“When people are getting takeaway drinks, in cafes, then they need to avoid spreading the disease there, avoid mingling too much.”

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi echoed this sentiment on Monday when he said: “We are concerned that, for example, in supermarkets we need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way rule in supermarkets.

“And, of course, when they are at capacity – to operate safely, people wait outside supermarkets.

“We don’t want to go any tougher, because this is a pretty tough lockdown.”

Face masks have been mandatory for all passengers on public transport since June 15.

This rule was later extended to shops and supermarkets.

In England you must wear a face-covering in all of the following indoor settings:

  • Public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses)
  • Taxis and private hire vehicles
  • Transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • Shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • Shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)
  • Auction houses
  • Premises providing hospitality (bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes), except when seated at a table to eat or drink (see exemptions)
  • Post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
  • Estate and lettings agents
  • Theatres
  • Premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)
  • Premises providing veterinary services
  • Visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
  • Libraries and public reading rooms
  • Places of worship
  • Funeral service providers (funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels)
  • Community centres, youth centres and social clubs
  • Exhibition halls and conference centres
  • Public areas in hotels and hostels
  • Storage and distribution facilities.

Who is exempt from wearing a face covering?

Face coverings are mandated for most people in England, but the following are exempt from wearing them:

  • Children under the age of 11
  • People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • Where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • If you 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 ‒ including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity
  • Police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public.

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