Eating and drinking among ‘reasonable excuses’ for not wearing a mask indoors in public, law says

Connor Parker


A customer wears a face mask while shopping in Iceland. (Getty)
A customer wears a face mask while shopping in Iceland. (Getty)

Eating and drinking are among the “reasonable excuses” for not wearing a mask indoors in public, new laws published today say.

Face coverings will be mandatory in shops, supermarkets, takeaways, railway stations, and airports from Friday.

The rules do not apply restaurants, gyms, and pubs, which means you will need to wear a mask when buying food in a takeaway like Greggs, but not when having a sitdown meal in a pub.

The new laws are the government’s latest attempt to bring life back to normal while also attempting to control the spread of coronavirus.

The guidelines spell out a number of “reasonable excuses” for not wearing a mask, including when it is “reasonably necessary” to eat or drink.

Disney World Florida recently had to tighten its rules around wearing masks and eating after customers subverted the guidelines by constantly snacking while walking.

Read more:

What will happen if I don't wear a covering in a shop?

R rate range goes above 1 in Northern Ireland for first time in seven weeks

Generally, in places where face masks aren’t required for customers, like in a pub, then the guidelines say staff should wear a face covering.

Face masks in supermarkets will be mandatory from Friday. (Getty)
Face masks in supermarkets will be mandatory from Friday. (Getty)

The opposite is true in the new laws for shops, where customers will need to wear a face covering and the government is not requiring them for staff, although they “strongly” recommend employers use them.

Other places where masks are mandatory are banks, building societies, and post offices.

Police, security, and regular staff at the listed places may ask people to remove their mask in order to prove the person's identity.

People who fail to cover their face risk a fine of up to £100. (Getty)
People who fail to cover their face risk a fine of up to £100. (Getty)

There are also exemptions for children under 11 and people unable to wear them because of physical or mental illness.

This rule applies if you are accompanying a person who relies on lip reading to communicate.

The full guidance on wearing face coverings was published less than 12 hours before the rules came into force.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said "everyone must play their part" by following the new guidance.

The new measures are the latest attempt by the government to return life to normal while also attempting to control the virus.(Getty)
The new measures are the latest attempt by the government to return life to normal while also attempting to control the virus.(Getty)

"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," he said.

The law also says it is okay to not wear a mask if you are avoiding injury and you did not have a mask with you at the time, or if you remove your mask in order to avoid harm.

Healthcare professionals and pharmacists may also request a person removes their mask in order for them to provide care.

Coronavirus: what happened today
Click here to sign up to the latest news and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter