Covid: as rules on mask wearing in England return, what exactly is the law?

As part of targeted measures to prevent the spread of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, from 4am on 30 November until the end of 20 December 2021, people in England will be required by law to wear a face covering in certain places.

Where you will have to wear a face covering

The new rule applies to shops, enclosed shopping centres, banks, short-term loan providers, post offices, and on public transport. Masks must also be worn during driving lessons and driving tests.

Where you don’t have to wear a face covering

All hospitality venues are exempt, including pubs, restaurants, cafes and canteens, bars, restaurants and bars in hotels or members’ clubs, and shisha bars.

Also exempt are photography studios, as well as premises, other than registered pharmacies, providing medical or dental services, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractic, osteopathic, optometry or other medical services including services relating to mental health.

What are the punishments for non-compliance?

People who are not wearing a face covering where they have to can be fined in form of a fixed penalty notice and ordered to pay £200, rising to £400 for the second such offence, and to £800 for the third, up to a maximum of £6,400 in the case of a sixth and subsequent fixed penalty notices received.

Who will police this new law?

The new requirement to wear a face covering in certain places
can be enforced by a constable, a police community support officer, a TfL officer, staff of public transport operators, as well as any person designated by the secretary of state for the purposes of this regulation.

These people can direct a person to wear a face covering or direct that person to leave the relevant place, and where a person does not comply with a direction given to them by a constable the constable may remove them from the relevant place.

Proceedings for an offence under these new regulations may be brought by the Crown Prosecution Service, Transport for London and any other person designated by the secretary of state for the purposes of this regulation.

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