Face coverings guidance

On this page

Where are face coverings mandatory?

The wearing of face coverings is required by law in many indoor settings including; shops, public transport, taxis and private hire vehicles.  In cafes, restaurants and pubs a face covering must be worn when you are not sat at your allocated table. 

Measures can be taken if people do not comply with this law. Transport operators can deny service or direct someone to wear a face covering. Staff in shops and supermarkets will be expected to encourage compliance with the law (as they would do more generally) and can refuse entry. In both cases, if necessary, the police have the powers to enforce these measures, including through issuing a fine of £100.

The government also strongly encourages people to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where they come into contact with people they do not normally meet.

The following link outlines the latest government rules and guidance in relation to the mandatory use of face coverings in more detail. It also provides links to arrangements in the other UK countries: 

Government guidance on face coverings (England) 

Guidance for Scotland

Guidance for Wales

Guidance for Northern Ireland


Advice and suggestions

  1. Evidence shows that whilst a face covering does offer some protection to the wearer, the greatest benefit is to those around them. It is now well established that people can be unknowing carriers of the COVID-19 virus in that they themselves have no symptoms, but they can infect anyone they encounter. 

  2. People with certain medical conditions or with physical, sensory or mental health disabilities may be exempt from wearing a face covering if there are genuine reasons why they cannot do so. One of the potential grounds for exemption is, 
    “not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability”

  3. There is no blanket exemption for anyone with a vision impairment. The government has clarified that the exemption could apply to people who have

    “a restricted field of vision, particularly if any residual vision is at the lower edge of the normal field of view”

    Therefore only a small percentage of people with vision impairment are likely to have legitimate cause to claim exemption.

  4. Given that some people with residual vision may find that wearing certain types of face covering is detrimental to their mobility, we strongly advise that you try wearing a range of face coverings at home or in the garden to gage whether they have a significant impact on your vision before venturing out in one. If you do encounter any difficulties which make you concerned for your safety when wearing a mask, please get in touch with Guide Dogs using the contact details below. 

  5. You might also find it helpful to watch a video produced by the Sight Loss Councils in which one of their vision impaired members explains how to put on and take off a face covering correctly. Watch the video.

  6. People who wear spectacles sometimes find that a cloth face covering causes their glasses to steam up. The following tips which have been circulating on line can help to prevent this from happening:

    Move your mask further up your nose and rest your glasses on top of it to help seal it; 
    If this doesn’t work, try using a piece of surgical tape to secure the mask to the bridge of your nose. This helps form a seal to prevent your breath from escaping upwards;

    Alternatively fold or roll up some tissue and place it between the top of the mask and your face;
    You can minimise fogging occurring by putting a small drop of washing-up liquid on the lenses and rub lightly with your fingers. Rinse with warm (not hot) water and gently dry with a soft tissue. You can also buy “anti-fog” or “anti-mist” spray and apply that to the lenses;

    If those tips don’t work, try using a different type of face covering.

  7. Some people who have found that a surgical style cloth face covering has interfered with their field of vision or whose glasses have steamed up have chosen to use a clear plastic face shield or visor instead. There is no evidence that shields or visors offer any significant benefits in terms of reducing the the risk of picking up or passing on the virus and so the use of these is not recommended by government. Cloth face coverings are strongly recommended as the more effective option and should be the first option for those who can wear them.

  8. As face coverings becomes mandatory rather than advisory, it is likely that staff in public facing roles will begin to challenge customers or travellers who are not wearing a face covering.

  9. For anyone who has legitimate cause to not wear a face covering, the government has introduced a voluntary exemption card scheme. The approved design can be downloaded from their website for use on a mobile device or to be printed out as a card or badge. Details of the exemption card are included in the government guidance.

  10. If travelling by bus or train it may be difficult for you to get on or off if your face covering impedes your residual vision. However, once safely seated unless you have good reason not to, you should wear a face covering for the remainder of your journey as this provides both you and your fellow passengers with reassurance that you are doing all you can to protect each other and prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

  11. Most staff in public settings will be wearing face coverings. While staff may lower them to enable people with hearing impairment to understand them, they are unlikely to do so for people without a hearing impairment.