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Style Northern Ireland coronavirus rules on face masks

11:00  29 october  2020
11:00  29 october  2020 Source:   belfastlive.co.uk

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Face coverings reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. They should mainly be worn to protect other In England, the police can issue a £200 fine to someone breaking the face covering rules . In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, a £60 fine can be imposed.

Face coverings have been compulsory in shops in Scotland since 10 July. Shoppers are not currently required to wear them in Wales or Northern Ireland , although NI will wait until 20 August before deciding whether to make them Coronavirus : What are the rules for face masks or face coverings?

Social distancing, stricter hand hygiene and the wearing of face coverings have become part of our everyday lives now as the fight against coronavirus continues.

Since August, the use of face coverings in certain indoor settings, such as shops or shopping centres has been mandatory.

You must also wear a face covering on public transport.

In more recent weeks, this has been extended to include airports, banks and some government offices, as well as private buses and taxis.

a man holding a sign: A man wearing a face mask walks past an entrance to Belfast City Hospital © Brian Lawless/PA Wire A man wearing a face mask walks past an entrance to Belfast City Hospital

We have pulled together the most recent information and guidance on face masks in Northern Ireland, from the NI Executive.

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However some who work on Northern Ireland 's buses and trains feel that debate should have happened by now. Coronavirus : How to make your own face mask . Currently, the executive strongly recommends the use of face masks when indoors, but it is not yet compulsory.

Face coverings have become mandatory in more indoor settings in England and Scotland following a recent spike in coronavirus cases. Coverings will also become compulsory in all public enclosed spaces in Northern Ireland from Monday. It comes as new quarantine rules for travellers to the UK

The reason for using face coverings

Coronavirus usually spreads by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, if you touch a surface and then your face without washing your hands first.

This is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes is important in controlling the spread of the virus.

The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.

Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus, they’re not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.

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People in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also currently advised to wear coverings in places where social distancing is more difficult, while the Welsh government says it is a matter of personal choice. Coronavirus : What are the rules for face masks or face coverings?

Northern Ireland 's Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said he supported the move. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said face coverings would "give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protections Coronavirus : Face masks and coverings to be compulsory in England's shops.

Face coverings in indoor public places

On August 10, it became mandatory to wear a face covering in a relevant place.  A relevant place generally means a shop or shopping centre, the NI Direct website explains.

As well as ordinary day to day shopping for items such as clothes, food or electrical goods, a face covering is required in any other indoor place where goods or services are available to buy or rent.

This includes, for example, a bookmakers, a food takeaway business or a dry cleaner.

Since October 14, banks and other similar businesses, restaurants, cafes and pubs, and offices that deliver Government services, have also become relevant places and you must wear a face covering.

a person holding a glass of wine: Micheal Burns, owner of the Glenpark Bar in Ardoyne © Justin Kernoghan/Belfast Live Micheal Burns, owner of the Glenpark Bar in Ardoyne

People who work in relevant places must also wear a face covering, unless they are separated from members of the public by a partition.  This includes, for example, someone stacking shelves in a supermarket or a waiter in a café.

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Mask -wearing has been compulsory on public transport in England and at NHS facilities across the UK since 15 June. However, the way the face -covering rules are likely to be drafted means it will be the police, not shop Shoppers in Wales and Northern Ireland are not currently required to wear them

face covering in shops will be mandatory in England from 24 July, but in Northern Ireland it is only compulsory However, he warned that if the rules are changed then it should not be left to retail staff to enforce them. Coronavirus : Face masks and coverings to be compulsory in England's shops.

It is not mandatory to wear a face covering in a business that is able to maintain social distancing by using a system of ticketing or appointments. This might include, for example, a cinema or a solicitor.

You do not have to wear a face covering if you are seated in a restaurant, pub or café, though you must replace it if you have any reason to leave your seat, such as when entering or leaving the premises and when visiting the toilet.

If you are a customer of a food takeaway business, or a shop that sells food or drink for immediate consumption, and it provides seating for its customers, you may remove your face covering while eating and drinking at those seats.

You do not have to wear a face covering in a gym or other place where the purpose of your attendance is aerobic exercise.

Face coverings on public transport, coaches, taxis and tour buses

All passengers and staff on public transport must wear a face covering:

  • On bus, coach and train services, including private buses and coaches, and taxis
  • In public transport stations and airports
  • In indoor areas of a ferry and outdoor areas where you can’t keep two metres social distance

Your driver should also wear a mask, unless he or she is behind a partition.

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Although shoppers in Northern Ireland and Wales are not required to wear face coverings, both have said they will keep this under review. The rules are to be enforced by the police, and those who fail to wear a face covering in shops will face a fine of up to £100, reduced to £50 if they pay within 14 days.

Covid-19 hospitality restrictions are to come into effect across all of Northern Ireland at 18:00 BST on Friday. The NI executive has also agreed that schools will close for two weeks, including the half-term holiday, until Monday 2 November, when their What you need to know about NI's new Covid rules .

Learning to drive

If you are learning to drive, both the learner and instructor must wear a face covering, unless they live in the same household as you. The same rules apply for driving tests.

Exemptions from wearing a face covering

You don’t have to wear a face covering in a public indoor place:

  • If you are under the age of 13.
  • If you are a member of staff or employee of the shop, shopping centre or bank and are behind a partition, or if you are in an area not open to the public and can maintain a two metre social distance from your colleagues.
  • If you have a reasonable excuse not to.

In addition to this, you do not have to wear a face covering on public transport:

  • on school transport
  • if you are a member of staff and are behind a protective screen

An employee of a shop or shopping centre can tell you to wear a face covering, and can tell you to leave the shop or shopping centre if you refuse to wear one and do not have a reasonable excuse not to.

a person holding a sign: Belfast City Centre © Justin Kernoghan/Belfast Live Belfast City Centre

Some circumstances make it difficult for some people to wear face coverings.  In these circumstances people may have a 'reasonable excuse' not to wear a face covering.

There is no need to get a letter from a doctor or the government to show that you do not need to wear a face covering.

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If you have a condition (for example, a disease such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis) which means you cannot wear a face covering you only need to say, if asked, that you cannot wear a face covering because you are exempt.

If you do not wear a face covering and you are not under 13 or have a reasonable excuse for not wearing one, you are committing an offence and could be fined.

How to wear a face covering

In line with the advice from the World Health Organisation, when you wear a face covering it is important that you:

  • Do not get a false sense of security about the level of protection they may offer.
  • Continue to practice social distancing.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it.

A face covering should:

  • Cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably.
  • Fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face.
  • Be secured to the head with ties or ear loops.
  • Be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton.
  • Ideally include at least two layers of fabric (the World Health Organisation recommends three depending on the fabric used).
  • Unless disposable, it should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged.

A vent is not recommended, according to the NI Executive.

A spokesperson added: "Masks with valves allow air breathed out to pass unfiltered into the environment, along with potential droplets, defeating the key purpose of protecting those around you."

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When wearing a face covering

When wearing a face covering you should:

  • Make sure the face covering covers your mouth, nose and chin without any gaps at the side.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on.
  • Avoid wearing on your neck or forehead.
  • Avoid touching the part of the face covering in contact with your mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus.
  • Change the face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it.
  • Avoid taking it off and putting it back on a lot in quick succession (for example, when leaving and entering shops on a high street).

When removing a face covering

When removing a face covering you should:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before removing.
  • Only handle the straps, ties or clips.
  • Do not give it to someone else to use.
  • If single-use, dispose of it carefully in a residual waste bin and do not recycle.
  • If reusable, wash it in line with manufacturer’s instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric after every use.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser once removed.

Face visors or face shields

The NI Direct website states: "Face visors or shields do not offer the same protection as a cloth face covering which sits directly over the nose and the mouth.

"If you wear a face shield or a visor you should also wear a cloth face covering.

"The use of cloth face coverings is recommended, as they provide much better protection from the risk of infection from the Covid-19 virus."

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