Face Coverings - Step 4 of the Roadmap for Easing Restrictions
Until Step 4 of the Roadmap, no earlier than 19th July, face coverings remain mandatory in a number of indoor settings, including on public transport, in shops and in hospitality settings when not seated. A full list of these settings, and further guidance on the current rules, can be found here.
From Step 4 of the Roadmap for easing restrictions, 19 July, we will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus. This will include ending the legal obligation to wear a face covering, although we expect and recommend that people, especially when cases are rising, wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don’t normally meet, such as on public transport. Ultimately, the guidance will ask people to use their common sense, and be mindful of others.
For example, if someone is in an environment where there are many other people around them, particularly those that we know are more vulnerable, they may wish to wear a face covering. In private settings, such as shops, it will be up to private businesses to decide what rules, if any, they wish to have in place.
The Social Distancing Review: Report was published on 5 July. The Review considered a range of evidence related to social distancing, face coverings and 'work from home' guidance: scientific, social, economic and behavioural. The policies of international comparators were also considered. As outlined in the Prime Minister's speech, the UK has made huge progress this year, the deployment of vaccines by the National Health Service (NHS) has put the UK in a strong position to ease restrictions. The Government has continued to be led by data, and the latest data and modelling show that the Government’s “four tests” for easing COVID restrictions have been met – meaning that we can proceed to Step 4 on 19 July.
Of course, the pandemic is not over and the virus is still with us. However, with our incredible vaccine rollout and the treatments available to those who are hospitalised with COVID-19, the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths is being weakened. That means that we can start to learn to live with COVID-19 while still protecting the NHS from being overwhelmed. As we move forward, we must all remember the sensible precautions we can take to keep us all safe. That means staying at home when asked to self-isolate, considering the guidance that will be set out, and getting both doses of the vaccine when offered.
Speaking during a Transport Committee evidence session, the Transport Secretary said individual companies could implement travel conditions beyond the Government's final stage of lockdown easing if they so wished. But he confirmed that he will not be issuing any blanket instructions to companies compelling them to keep COVID safety measures in place.
The Transport Secretary said:
"So we are shifting to this next phase where people use common sense and personal responsibility to decide these things and I think that is actually a sensible way forwards. Look, if you are travelling - and I travel on all types of transport, on all types of trains - if you are travelling on the underground and it is pretty packed then wearing a face covering may well be helpful and increase confidence. And standing right next to somebody, I think that is something that I'd want to do and transport operators are free to require it. On the other hand, if you are travelling on a pretty empty carriage at an unpopular time of day to travel for three hours on a mainline or something, then it is pretty pointless in that circumstance to be potentially sat there on your own wearing a mask."
The Mayor of London, who is also the chair of TfL, has made face coverings a condition of carriage for the Tube, bus, tram, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail. This means that, despite the easing of restrictions on 19 July, it will be listed as a condition in a legal agreement between TfL and its customers. Face coverings will also be required in taxis and private hire vehicles by both drivers and passengers unless they are exempt. TfL's 400 enforcement officers will deny those without a face covering from using London transport, under the plan. TfL staff and bus drivers will continue to remind passengers that masks are a requirement, Mr Khan said.
Health and care settings will continue to maintain appropriate infection prevention and control processes as necessary and this will be continually reviewed. So, whilst restrictions have now eased in England, visitors to care homes still need to:
- wear a mask
- limit close contact
- take a rapid COVID-19 test on the day of visit
- wash hands thoroughly
to help protect residents and staff.
In care homes, the Government will lift restrictions that limit each resident to five named visitors. Specific guidance will advise how visits should be conducted to keep care homes safe whilst also making visits as normal as possible. Care homes will need to retain infection prevention and control measures essential to protecting residents from the risk of infection.
As part of the roadmap out of lockdown – guided by data on the prevalence and transmission of COVID-19 – we want to enable care home residents to enjoy more visits to their care homes wherever it is safe to do so. To view the summary of guidance for visitors to residential care homes, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/visiting-care-homes-during-coronavirus/summary-of-guidance-for-visitors--2.
Public Health England’s infection prevention control guidelines and hospital visiting guidance is set to remain in place for all staff and visitors, despite COVID restrictions ending in many settings in England from Monday 19 July.
That means NHS visitor guidance will stay in place across all health services including hospitals, GP practices, dental practices, optometrists and pharmacies to ensure patients and staff are protected.
Staff, patients and visitors will also be expected to continue to follow social distancing rules when visiting any care setting as well as using face coverings, mask and other personal protection equipment.
The NHS will continue to support staff in ensuring that the guidance is followed in all healthcare settings.
From 17 May, in line with Step 3 of the roadmap, face coverings were no longer recommended for pupils and students in classrooms or communal areas, in all schools and FE providers. From Step 4, 19 July, face coverings will also no longer be advised for staff and visitors in communal areas and social distancing will no longer be necessary.
The Department for Education is also taking additional measures in areas where there is a high prevalence of variants of concern. In enhanced response areas, directors of public health (DsPH) may work in partnership with schools and colleges to reinstate supervised on-site testing and to reintroduce face coverings advice for indoor communal areas including classrooms, subject to an assessment of the educational impact against public health benefit. DsPH may also decide to use these measures as part of specific outbreak management for a small number of schools and colleges, whether or not they are in an enhanced response area.
The policy on face coverings and the system of controls is kept under review and is informed by the latest scientific and medical advice from Public Health England.