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Compulsory Face Masks: When, Why & How?

As new legislation begins tomorrow in England, face masks will be mandatory when entering shops in the UK.

Despite this, there appears to be some confusion as to what shop types and under what circumstances face masks and coverings should be worn. Over the next couple of paragraphs, we’re going to attempt to make it easy for you to understand.

When do I need to wear a mask?

The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering or mask can reduce transmission, so best practice would be to get into the habit of wearing your mask or covering in areas where social distancing is difficult, or in areas where the use of air conditioning or fans may be present.

In terms of the compulsory rules, let’s break this down so you know when & where to wear them (both new & old). From the 24th July, it’s compulsory to wear a face mask in:

  • Supermarkets and retail outlets
  • Coffee shops and takeaway food outlets.
  • Trains and buses
  • Hospitals as a visitor

This means, at this moment in time, it is not compulsory in pubs, restaurants or beauty salons.

What about exemptions?

  • Children under 11
  • An employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
  • A constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An emergency response member of staff, such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An official such as a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
  • If you are on board public transport but remain in your own vehicle, such as a car ferry

Other legitimate exemptions include those with physical disabilities or mental health illnesses, and anyone travelling with a deaf person.

Think of it this way.

When you’re on your own or with members of your own family household (such as at home, in the car or) then a mask isn’t necessary. If you’re walking into a restaurant or on a petrol forecourt, a mask would be a good idea, but not compulsory. If you’re entering a sandwich shop, clothes retailer or a supermarket for a small or weekly shop, you must be wearing your mask. Visiting any kind of shop where you can buy goods? Wear a mask.

It’s not just government protocol, as private companies are taking it upon themselves to make them compulsory, such as Uber.

Opt for washable and reusable options, and have two for rotation when one is in the wash. Luckily, we’ve got an offer on at the moment for two reusable & washable fluid repellent face masks for £20 in over 30 designs.

Why do I need to wear a mask?

While we’re not going to be drawn into the political debate of whether the deployment of mandatory coverings is too late, the fact is that evidence is continuing to emerge that even the most basic face covering can reduce the potential spread of Covid-19. A recent study conducted in South Korea found that if you have Covid-19 and cough on someone from eight inches away, wearing a mask or basic covering will reduce the amount of virus you transmit to that person by 36 times.

Indeed, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there is growing evidence that wearing them helps protect individuals and those around them from the virus.

Evidence also suggests that a number of people infected with the virus produce no symptoms. That means you could be transmitting the disease every day without knowing it. It is preventing the unintentional spread that is the main purpose of mandatory face masks.

If that’s not enough of a deterrent, then the possibility of facing a £100 fine (£50 if paid within 14 days) should emphasise the importance.

How do I wear a mask?

The most important thing when wearing a mask is to make sure it is both covering your nose and mouth, and is comfortable to the point where you don’t need to keep adjusting it.

The BBC shared this brilliant video to summarise the wearing of masks.


People who wear glasses may find that they are prone to steaming up whilst wearing a face mask. Wearing glasses over the face covering (tucking the covering behind the rim of the glasses) or folding up tissue paper to create a barrier may well help. If you’re still struggling, there’s plenty of tips online.

Here’s some advice from the World Health Organisation on what to do before applying a mask, and how to keep it safe and secure:

I’ m seeing a lot of negative things about it on social media?

Unfortunately, this is a sign of the times. Our advice is to stick to authoritative sources for advice here in the UK, particularly from outlets including the NHS and Public Health England.


Over the past few months, we’ve put our knack of developing award-winning sportswear into the development of face masks that are fluid repellent, antimicrobial, reusable and washable.

To explore our options for custom branded masks, click here.

To explore our range of retail masks available for immediate dispatch, click here.

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