Coronavirus: When can we stop wearing face masks or face coverings?

By Michelle Roberts
Health editor, BBC News online

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Wearing a face covering is still currently a legal requirement in many places, but when might that change?

Reviews are being carried out into how and when Covid measures, including face coverings, might be lifted.

What are the reviews?

The government in Westminster is working with colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to seek a consistent UK-wide approach.

When will we know the findings?

Are face-covering rules likely to remain?

We won’t know for sure until ministers assess the reviews, but it’s thought face-coverings might still be needed in some circumstances – particularly during winter.

Some people may opt to wear them, even if they are not compulsory.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped they would become the norm on public transport as a matter of “personal responsibility”.

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Why should I wear a mask?

Face coverings – when worn over the nose and mouth – reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking.

The main purpose is to protect other people from Covid, rather than yourself. If everyone wears one, risks drop for all.

Masks can help to reduce spread of the virus from people who are contagious but have no symptoms.

Cutting virus transmission is important because it is still circulating and many people are not yet vaccinated.

Where do I need to wear one?

Secondary school pupils in England are no longer required to wear face coverings. However, individual schools may still insist pupils 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

In England and Northern Ireland police can issue £200 fines. In Scotland and Wales, £60 fines can be imposed.

Repeat offenders face bigger fines.

Face covering, mask or both?

  • Choose a mask/face covering with a nose wire
  • Check it fits snugly over mouth, nose and chin
  • Make sure it has at least a couple of layers
  • Tie knots 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.

media captionWhich face covering is best to wear?

Cloth face coverings do not give wearers as much protection.

But the World Health Organization says it has no plans to change guidance recommending fabric face masks for the general public.

Who is exempt from wearing them?

  • Children (under 11 in England and Wales, under 13 in Northern Ireland, under five in Scotland)
  • Those unable to put on or wear a face covering because of a physical/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

Can I make one?

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