Face Coverings and Civil Liberties

Thank you for contacting me about wearing face coverings.  I am sorry to read your dissatisfaction at the Government’s approach to face coverings, but the Government is following scientific guidance to ensure that steps are taken to ensure that people are able to go about their business as safely as possible.

New rules about face coverings do not mean people should wear surgical masks or respirators (which need to be kept available for those who need to wear them at work).  Instead, people should wear the kind of face covering that can easily be made at home.  Face coverings should cover the mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably, and can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head to give a snug fit.

Some people will be exempt from needing to wear a face covering, for example children under the age of 11.  Moreover, some people will have a reasonable excuse not to wear one.  This would apply, for instance, to a person who has a disability or a physical or mental illness or impairment which means they cannot wear a face covering.  The full list of exemptions and reasonable excuses can be found here.

I agree that it is vital to balance the need to restrict the spread of the virus without infringing on civil liberties, while allowing the restoration of economic and social life.  My colleagues in Government have made a judgement that the best way to balance these things is to enable people to go out and about, and to see and socialise with friends and family, but to require that, if they choose to do so, they take additional measures to restrict the spread of this virus by wearing face coverings in certain situations.  It is vital that we do all that we can to protect a second wave of Covid-19. I know that the Government is keeping all guidelines under constant review to ensure that any restrictions in place are worthwhile measures in the fight against coronavirus, and I urge you to comply with these measures.

I should highlight that, in situations where it is mandatory to wear a face covering (including in shops and supermarkets from Friday, 24th July) under the new rules, should an individual refuse to wear a face covering they could face a fine of up to £100.

Thank you once again for your email and I hope you will re-consider your position and support our collective efforts to overcome COVID-19.