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UK: Eight types of people exempt from wearing face masks – and 7 ‘reasonable excuses’ police will accept


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Face masks are now compulsory in shops and across the nation as people in England are told to don them from July 24.

The government has updated its guidance, making wearing face masks law from later this month.

The regulations will be made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, with a maximum fine of £100 – reduced to £50 if it is paid within 14 days.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the new measures on Monday, July 13, with shops urged to remind customers to wear them.

Oxford University study shows the effectiveness of face coverings
The law will be enforced by the police, the government has revealed, but certain exemptions could be made to keep the public safe and comfortable.

As is the case on public transport, children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

The move follows a weekend of confusion over whether ministers intended to make face coverings compulsory after Boris Johnson said they were looking at “stricter” rules.

According to the official Government guidance, the following groups are exempt:

  • A child under the age of 11
  • An employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
  • Any other person providing services to the transport operator, under arrangements made with the transport operator, who is providing those services
  • A constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An emergency responder such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An official, for example, a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
  • If you are allocated a cabin, berth or other similar accommodation, at any time when you are in that accommodation, either alone, or only with members of your own household or a linked household
  • If you are on board public transport but remain in your private vehicle, for example on a car ferry

And the government has also detailed “reasonable excuses” for not wearing a mask, including physical and mental impairments, if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress, and if you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate.

If you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you, this would also be “reasonable”, as would if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others.

If you need to eat, drink, or take medication you can remove your face covering.

If you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official, for example to check your railcard, then you can.

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