Covid-19: face coverings

It is now compulsory (from 24 July 2020) to wear face coverings on public transport and in shops. However, there are some exceptions for disabled people and people with long term health conditions.

Wearing a face covering or face mask is thought to help stop the spread of Covid-19. It has therefore become compulsory for people travelling on public transport and going into shops to wear a face covering or a mask.

Government information on wearing face coverings or masks

Exemptions from wearing a face covering (from the Government’s website)

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:

  • young children under the age of 11
  • 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, but only if you need to
  • 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 by shop staff for the purpose of age identification
  • 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

Face coverings and transport

It is compulsory to wear face coverings on public transport, with the same exemptions as above.

Government information on wearing a face covering on public transport 

Taxis and public hire vehicles (PHV) are not counted as public transport, however a taxi driver may or may not require passengers to wear a face covering; drivers are advised to make an assessment of risk.

The acceptance of a booking request by a PHV operator is a decision made based on the operator’s own assessment of risk.

Any requirements for face coverings should be made clear to the passenger before the operator accepts the booking. Taxi drivers can use this assessment to determine whether or not it is reasonable to admit or refuse a passenger who is not wearing a face covering, considering other mitigations  in place from their risk assessment, as well as the exemptions to wear a face covering.

Some taxi drivers and private hire operators, including Uber, require the wearing of face coverings for both drivers and passengers and in addition, many vehicles have had temporary screens installed between the driver and passenger.

This does not, however, absolve them of their duties under the Equality Act 2010.