/ Health

Face coverings mandatory from today: are you getting used to them?

Face coverings are now mandatory in shops in England – joining Scotland. Have you been wearing one, and what’s your experience been?

From today, face coverings are mandatory in shops in England, with fines of up to £100 for non-compliance, meaning a lot more people will have to wear one in day to day life.

Face coverings are already mandatory in shops in Scotland, in hospitals in England and on public transport across the UK.

Where and when you need a face covering

After a lot of debate and gradual, piecemeal changes to the rules in the UK, one thing is now becoming clear: face masks are the new normal for many of us. 

But most of us will never have bought or worn one before and they can take some getting used to.

Official advice is that a three-layer reusable fabric mask is best for the general public, but getting the right one for fit and comfort might be a case of trial and error. 

Where to buy face masks and how to make your own

Your face covering experiences so far

Have you been able to find a face covering that works for you?

What features have you found useful? And what don’t you like about wearing a covering – from bugbears to more significant issues?

We know that there are concerns about what the widespread adoption of masks means for certain groups like those who rely on lip reading to communicate.

If you, or someone you know are exempt from wearing a mask, how has this affected you?

Comments

I’ve bought a few different face coverings but the ones I purchased on ASOS have been my favourite so far – nice patterns and adjustable to your face so they fit well.

I’ve travelled on the train a few times now and the majority of passengers have been wearing face coverings. It will be interesting to see how this changes in shops – when I’ve been in Sainsbury’s and Tesco up until now, only about half of the people seem to have coverings, including the staff.

I’ve been voluntarily wearing face coverings in shops for a while now. I’m not fussed about the style or pattern, I just want to be wearing one.

From the assumption that social distancing is currently required, I think it is logical to wear face coverings in places where it is hard to maintain social distancing. Shops are an obvious case in point.

Kevin says:
24 July 2020

The concern that I have is about how people behave when they are wearing a mask. On numerous occasions, people in masks have broken the 2m social distancing rule (on one occasion a lady even physically pushed past me to get to the shelf she wanted but that was the worst case). On others, people have been less patient in waiting for space and moved in far too close. I fear that there is a tendency to believe that wearing a mask in some way confers immunity from infection. Worse still, most of these people are, like me, over sixty.

Kevin, over time I have noticed many folk becoming more impatient and less diligent with regard to social distancing.

My current pet hate is couples who stand both sides of an aisle, effectively blocking it while they hold a needlessly long discussion about what to buy for their fussy offspring.

Given that such circumstances tend to force breaches of 2m distancing , I want to be wearing a face covering and I think everyone else should too, unless they have valid grounds for exception.

The news showed people who had made their own masks. One lady had included a transparent panel over her mouth so you could see a smile – something missing with simple masks. It also enabled the hard of hearing to lipread, so would be handy for shop staff.

I have no problem wearing a mask (and gloves) when I need to get fuel or provisions. I still keep clear of others. However, I have noticed a relaxation in people’s observance of social distancing when walking outside. We’ll know if this has any effect on COVID cases fairly quickly I would imagine.

I also wear gloves much of the time when shopping. I think this helps when examining goods and reading the small print, so I can then safely put them back if I decide not to purchase.

How do you avoid contaminating your bare hands when you take the gloves on and off? This is very difficult to avoid, and defeats the purpose of using gloves. It’s usually simpler and safer to wash one’s hands often, use hand sanitiser and avoid touching shared surfaces with bare hands (e.g. use a tissue).

Here is a short video showing how this can be done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nncHYHZOKmA The demonstration uses ink to confirm that the hands were not contaminated.

I use nitrile gloves. Use one glove to remove the other and you can remove the second glove by putting fingers inside. The main thing is, even with gloves, not touching your face. You can carry hand sanitiser instead of course. When out walking I open gates with an arm or elbow. There are plenty of ways of complying with the recommendations.

My worry is those people who just don’t care and put themselves, their families and others at risk. I wonder how Brighton got on today? They made an appeal to not visit their beaches en masse. If you do get there and find the place becoming busy, the sensible thing to do is to go elsewhere. Will (did) people do that? Judging by the pictures (and of Bournemouth and Poole) it appears not. I despair at the selfish mentality some (quite a lot) are exhibiting.

I have not been in a shop since the middle of March and have been using supermarket collections or deliveries, where it has been easy to keep away from others. I thought it would be useful to order some masks with my most recent order but have no intention of venturing into shops for the time being.

There is a family wedding scheduled for October and if that goes ahead it could be the first time I need to wear a mask.

Marian says:
26 July 2020

[Moderator: this comment has been removed due to users reporting it being rude or offensive. Remember: when posting please follow the Community guidelines]

Marian – If you could be asymptomatic but infected and possibly exhaling close to other people in a shop or on a bus, don’t you consider it your civic duty to prevent your germs affecting the others?

In this case the government is acting on behalf of bus and train companies and retailers who rightly wish to protect their staff and other users or customers. After all, they do have the right to refuse entry to their own vehicles or premises; it is just more rational and convenient if the government makes a general rule. It’s our own choice whether or not we wear a face-covering in the open air but when we enter somebody else’s place we should do the decent thing and comply with their wishes.

I see Marian fears that we may be at risk of ending up as a communist state.

Given the current huge Conservative majority in Parliament, I really doubt we have anything to fear there.

You have two choices Marian, stay safe at home without a mask or venture out wearing a mask that will protect you from a potentially fatal disease and also prevent you from passing it on to others if you are asymptomatic.

Nearly 50,000 people in the UK have died from this invisible killer, wearing a mask will go some way to prevent you from catching it and passing it on to your husband. Don’t forget it could cost you £100 for each store you visit without a mask……….could prove to be quite an expensive days shopping.

There are approximately 7 billion people on this planet in danger of contracting it. If everyone felt as you about wearing face protection millions more people would die. It would be a very lonely place if you were the only person left………….

I am pleased the moderator has removed Marian’s comment. While freedom of expression is important that does not mean we have to tolerate offensive remarks.

Val says:
26 July 2020

I’ve been wearing a home made mask for weeks when shopping. However, I’ve been in the minority, until the last week. It’s just part of the jigsaw in preventing the spread of this deadly virus. I’m a retired nurse, so wearing a mask isn’t alien to me. I generally feel people have relaxed too much on social distancing, so many come right up to you in shops, so it’s important that this is still reinforced. The only downside is they get hot, you can’t tell easily if people are smiling or not. If like me you wear glasses, make sure it’s got a wire in the nose, to stop them steaming up.

When it became law last Friday I took my face mask to the shops and tried to put it on…. After five minutes, it stayed on my face but the shop assistant thought I was wearing a pair of knickers. I finally worked out how it went in front of a mirror – round the entire head not just the ears. Something to get used to for the sake of others, but, hopefully not for too long.

Jessy says:
26 July 2020

As an NHS worker I am use to wearing face mask. The only thing thing that annoyed me was that customers were wearing face mask whereas shop assistants didn’t have any shields or mask on, others can’t wear face mask due to asthma and heart problems and it knocks there confidence going back out.

Hi Jessy, i expect that those of us who are used to wearing PPE at work will not regard compulsory facemasks as a big deal.

In effect, since 1974, the UK Health & Safety at Work (etc.) Act has made workplace PPE compulsory whenever it is reasonably practicable to use it to reduce risks and protect people.

Shops are places of work for shop assistants and their employers. Hence, I think the recent Government legislation is arguably just reinforcing measures that already ought to have been taken in shops. If folk like Marian don’t want to wear face coverings then so be it, but, without face coverings, I don’t think they have any legal right to enter private business premises (e.g. shops) and get served there.

The government has exempted shop staff from having to wear face-coverings [unless, as Derek has explained, that would otherwise be necessary to comply with a health and safety risk assessment].

This exemption is sensible if the customers are wearing their own protection [as now required] because it was considered that requiring shop staff to spend very long periods wearing a mask would be unreasonable.

The face covering does not offer much protection from infection to the wearer but does reduce the risk of infection for other people in close contact. The best protection against infection from others is a transparent face-shield which some shops have provided for their staff.

Shops have also taken additional precautions with Perspex screens, control over numbers entering, and floor markings to ensure appropriate distancing. It is now generally as safe to visit shops as is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.

If a shop worker has a cough or sneezes then they are advised to have a test and if necessary to self-isolate, not just carry on working with a mask on. To protect colleagues, employers have a duty to facilitate that.

Thanks John. As I see it, our usual UK approach to Health and Safety is that businesses must not endanger either their employees or the public.

Most of the public will already be used to compulsory seat belts in cars and taxis as well as crash helmets on motor bikes. We have also banned smoking in workplaces and in pubs.

Well said John. The importance of wearing a mask is now acceptable to most but lets not forget to combine that with washing hands and observing a safe distance. One very useful slogan has recently emerged which says:

Remember the 3 WWW’s
Wear a mask
Wash your hands
Watch your distance

Thanks Beryl.

That’s a new 3W’s for me.

The one I already know was taught me by my Welsh friend Llew. He was a football fan who supported these 3W’s:

Wales, Wrexham and Whoever’s playing England.

🙂

That’s right, Derek – It’s a long time since I was involved with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations but I am fairly sure it was clearly established that employers had a duty of care to the public legitimately entering onto their premises. In my view that would give them the right to exclude people whose conduct posed a health risk to their staff or to others. Refusing to wear a face-covering in defiance of government regulations would seem to be a case where such action was justified. I hope it would never come to enforcement but there are some uncooperative people about.

Mark Book says:
27 July 2020

I went to a shop where there was a sign outside “Please do not enter the shop if you have the following symptoms:…” and there were no other restrictions in the shop. If shops want to survive they should follow the above example otherwise they will be toast before too long.

Unless exempted you have to wear a mask or face covering in a shop at present. I’m avoiding shops at present but I understand that most people are behaving responsibly.

They are in my experience. I had to visit the bank today. 2m spaced (short) queue outside, 2 people allowed in, and all wore masks. I also wore nitrile gloves simply because I was handling paper.

Jane says:
28 July 2020

I refuse to wear one. I refuse to buy into this control through chaos and fear from our government. If I can’t shop, I can’t shop. They’re destroying the smaller highstreet whilst big stores will survive. They’re driving more working class people into more austerity and stress, which is no good for the immune system. Nor is being kept away from everyone!
They’re illogical, controlling, they won’t help.

Sorry Jane, I disagree with what you are saying here.

As I see it, wearing a face covering shows that, whenever I encounter other folk in shops, irrespective of whether or not they are working class, I want to do my bit to reduce the risk of them contacting the virus. As a secondary function, I expect that a face covering will also reduce my risk of contacting the virus.

Jane, you could be a carrier of the virus. How would you feel if you passed the virus to someone who then died? Maybe a friend or someone in your family?

Wearing masks WILL help the smaller High Street stores survive and reduce the risk of their staff contracting this fatal disease, and also reduce the risk of you getting it and passing it to others.

Please stop being selfish and consider other people and THEIR lives.

No one is forcing you to wear a mask Jane. You are quite at liberty to leave your house without one provided you keep a safe distance from others. It just means no shop owner is going to allow you onto their premises in order to protect their staff and the majority of law abiding other customers from the minority of people who refuse to wear one. It’s not about control it’s a matter of plain common sense.

pete says:
28 July 2020

no science backs up the use of masks. And the majority of people wearing them have no idea about fitting or on/off usage…
and that’s before we get into the politics..

Pete, if you cherry pick your scientists, you’ll be able to find advocates both for and against masks.

Irrespective of that, the risk of dying from the virus is a real threat to all of us right now.

It follows that, because masks are likely to reduce risks and because they are available and easy enough to use, they should be used.

After all, if masks didn’t work, why have our doctors and other medical staff been wearing them in hospitals and care homes?

We know that this virus affects the lungs and so can be transmitted through the air, from one person to another, by the simple act of breathing.

I have also seen results from scientific studies that show how masks can reduce the risks of transmission, so, actually, your initial statement is untrue.

Masks do limit the spread of your own exhalations so can only be a help, to others. Wearing one shows respect for those around you, just as does social distancing.

There is good science that confirms those wearing masks are less likely to spread disease. Short of wearing space suits, they’re the best defence against airborne contagion.

I did consider going shopping in full coveralls and such like, but decided against it.

And I was looking forward to seeing you togged out in full NBC kit, Derek!

Taking inspiration from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in the early sixties –

I’m the urban spaceman baby, I’ve got speed
I’ve got everything I need
I’m the urban spaceman baby, I can fly
I’m a supersonic guy
I don’t need pleasure, I don’t feel pain
If you were to knock me down, I’d just get up again
I’m the urban spaceman babe and
I’m making out . . . I’m all about

It seems to be generally agreed now that wearing face coverings helps protect others from a virus you may be breathing out. Even the WHO has come round to that view. So what’s there to debate? Just do it.

To all those who believe that there are no exemptions relating to the wearing of facemasks please read the following. I have copied this from the .gov website. I have done this as I am one of those who due to hidden disabilities am exempt from wearing a facemask and, am, at the moment, nervous about not wearing one due to the level of abuse both vocal and physical that I have been told and seen exists. I do believe that instead of saying that it is ‘MANDATORY’ to wear the facemasks the PM, Government, Shops and other businesses should make it clear that there are exemptions. I would wear one if I could but due to Emphysema amongst other ailments I cannot. I would ask you all to read this press release in full and, as they say, ‘read and inwardly digest’. I understand that there are those who have no reason not to wear one, just don’t want to and I agree that is wrong. Please don’t take it out on those who legitimately cannot.
Apologies for the rant. Also just for your info the charity, ‘HiddenDisabilities is recognised by the Government as a place to get a badge to show you are exempt. I have one from them.
This is the FULL content of the Press release of the 23rd July 2020 by The Department of Health and Social Care and also Matt Hancock MP. ‘Face coverings will be mandatory in additional enclosed public spaces from Friday 24 July – including shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and transport hubs
New measure an important step in lifting lockdown, as the public are encouraged to play their part
Venues such as restaurants, pubs and gyms will be exempt.
Under the new regulations laid today, members of the public will need to wear face coverings – for example, a fabric covering, scarf or bandana – that covers the nose and mouth in additional enclosed public spaces, as well as frequent hand washing and careful social distancing.
It will be compulsory to wear a face covering when buying food and drink to take away from cafes and shops. If you are in a premises where you are able to sit down and consume food or drink that you have bought, then you can remove your face covering in order to eat and drink on-site.
Face coverings will not be mandatory for:
anyone under the age of 11
those with disabilities or certain health conditions, such as respiratory or cognitive impairments that make it difficult for them to wear a face covering
There is evidence to suggest that, when used correctly, face coverings may reduce the likelihood of someone with the infection passing it on to others, particularly if they are asymptomatic.
The government is telling the public to play their part and wear face coverings in order to help fight the spread of the virus, enabling further easing of national restrictions. The responsibility for wearing a face covering sits with individuals. Businesses are encouraged to take reasonable steps to encourage customers to follow the law, including through signs and providing other information in store.
Health and Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
As we move into the next stage of easing restrictions for the public, it is vital we continue to shop safely so that we can make the most of our fantastic retail industry this summer. Everyone must play their part in fighting this virus by following this new guidance. I also want to thank the British public for all the sacrifices they are making to help keep this country safe.
As well as shops and supermarkets, face coverings must be worn in banks, building societies and post offices.
Wearing a face covering will not be made mandatory in other venues that have measures in place to protect staff and the public from COVID-19. These include:
eat-in restaurants and pubs
hairdressers and other treatment salons
gyms and leisure centres
cinemas, concert halls and theatres
For transport hubs in England, the requirements mean face coverings must be worn in indoor train stations and terminals, airports, maritime ports, and indoor bus and coach stations or terminals.
Anyone who doesn’t abide by the regulations – and is not exempt under one of the categories set out in the regulations – could face a fine by the police of up to £100, as is currently the case on public transport. The police have been very clear throughout the pandemic that they will “engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce as a last resort”.
People wearing face coverings are still strongly advised to:
wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before putting one on or taking it off
avoid taking it off and putting it back on again a lot in quick succession
store it in a plastic bag in between washes or wearing
avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth while wearing one’
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The latest guidance will be published on GOV.UK soon.
The regulations, made under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984, will include powers for the police to enforce the requirement to wear a face covering.
You will be expected to wear a face covering before entering any shop or supermarket and must keep this on until you leave. If a shop or supermarket has a café or seating area for you to eat and drink, then you can remove your face covering in this area only. You must put a face covering back on once you leave your seating area.
Wearing a face covering will not be made mandatory in venues such as:
hairdressers and close-contact services
eat-in restaurants, cafes and pubs. Face coverings will be required in cafes or take-away restaurants that do not provide table service, other than in designated seating areas
entertainment venues, including cinemas, concert halls and theatres
visitor attractions (such as heritage sites or museums)
gyms and leisure centres
dentists or opticians. But NHS guidance states that face coverings should be worn in hospitals
Those with the following circumstances are also exempt from wearing a face covering, regardless of the venue:
children under the age of 11
those with disabilities or the following health conditions: breathing difficulties and other respiratory conditions
conditions affecting their dexterity, meaning they are not able to put on a face covering
mental health conditions such as anxiety or panic disorders
other non-visible disabilities such as autism
cognitive impairments, including dementia, who may not understand or remember the need to wear a face covering
visual impairments, with a restricted field of vision, particularly if any residual vision is at the lower edge of the normal field of view
impairments which would make it difficult to put on or take off a face covering safely, accurately, consistently or without pain
This list of exemptions is not exhaustive and extends to anyone with justifiable reason for not wearing one on the grounds of health or disability.
You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes (but is not limited to):
young children under the age of 11 (Public Health England do not recommended face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
to eat or drink if reasonably necessary
in order to take medication
if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked:
if asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
if asked to do so by shop staff for identification, the purpose of assessing health recommendations, such as a pharmacist, or for identification purposes including when buying age-restricted products such as alcohol
if speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication
It is not compulsory for shop or supermarket staff to wear face coverings although we strongly recommend that employers consider their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place. Employees should continue to follow COVID-19 secure guidelines to reduce the proximity and duration of contact between employees. Businesses are already subject to legal obligations to protect their staff under existing employment law. This means taking appropriate steps to provide a safe working environment, which may include face coverings where appropriate, alongside other mitigation such as perspex screens to separate workers from customers.
Further regulations will come into force on Saturday 25 July, to open more businesses and venues to the public. This will include swimming pools and water parks, indoor fitness and dance studios, gyms and sport courts.
On enforcement in transport hubs, transport and hub operators will be expected to remind passengers of the law and if necessary ask people to leave a transport hub if they are not wearing a face covering. It will be for the Police (and British Transport Police on the rail network) to enforce £100 fixed-term penalties, or remove people from services. Transport for London (TfL) will have the same enforcement and prosecution powers in TfL transport hubs as they currently have in TfL carriages.

That’s a comprehensive list, Stickus. 🙂

Those of us who suffer from respiratory problems are at greater risk if we do suffer from Covid-19, so perhaps they should avoid anywhere where wearing a face covering is advised wherever possible.

David Kay says:
1 August 2020

We will have to get used to it for quite a while .I don’t particularly like it but if it stops the spread of C19 then it will be worth the inconvenience.You can smile at people but they can not see what you are doing!

Obviously something has gone wrong with the sequencing of comments here after the removal of a comment by “Jane”.

I am not sure where this one will end up either.

Martin Hodgetts says:
5 August 2020

I purchased two face masks from Newt based on a mention in WHICH magazine and I must confess to be VERY disappointed in them. They don’t fit properly and the amount of material used is laughable. This isn’t the big bugbear though. The worse thing is NEWT send you an email asking you review their products and if you give less than five stars your review isn’t shown. I wish I’d never heard of the company and I certainly wouldn’t recommend buying anything from them

Hi Martin, sorry to hear that the masks you purchased were of bad quality. Which? doesn’t explicitly recommend these specific masks, but we’ve listed some retailers and key specs to give people a starting point. However, we will be testing some face masks soon and then we can make some updates to this page.

Further to my post yesterday, I have been in touch with the supplier, a nice lady called Natalie, who has refunded my money and explained about the review system. I am still not keen on the product but have to rate Natalie with five stars for customer communication and service.

Hi @grace-b-2019 good to hear you will be reviewing masks soon.

Please can you include in your tests:
– masks suitable for smaller adult heads
– the material they are made from including what goes around the ears
– how well they work with specs
– whether they can be moulded around the nose.

You’re