Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Face coverings will be compulsory in takeaways in England as of tomorrow, the government has finally confirmed, ending days of confusion.
From tomorrow, it will be the law to wear a face covering when buying food and drink to takeaway from cafes and shops, with £100 fines for anyone breaking the new law.
For premises where customers are able to sit down and consume food or drink that they have bought, then face coverings can be removed in order to eat and drink on site. Customers must place face coverings back on once they leave the seating area.
Venues such as restaurants and pubs will be exempt from the ruling however.
It is not compulsory for staff to wear face coverings either, although the government does strongly recommend that employers consider their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place, adding: "Employees should continue to follow ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines to reduce the proximity and duration of contact between employees. Businesses are already subject to legal obligations to protect their staff under existing employment law. This means taking appropriate steps to provide a safe working environment, which may include face coverings where appropriate, alongside other mitigation such as perspex screens to separate workers from customers."
The legislation is designed to enhance protection for staff, as well as their customers, after it was revealed that retail workers are the most likely to contract the virus, with death rates amongst retail workers higher than in the general population.
Under the new regulations laid today, members of the public will need to wear face coverings - for example, a fabric covering, scarf or bandana - that covers the nose and mouth as well as implement frequent hand washing and careful social distancing.
The ruling ends days of conflicting advice from MPs who failed to clarify the situation.
Health secretary Matt Hancock initially stated any customers using counter service would have to wear a mask, while business secretary Alok Sharma came out days later to say that face coverings in takeaways would not be compulsory, but instead were “encouraged”.
In a statement today confirming the mandatory wearing of face coverings in takeaways, Matt Hancock said: “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.
“Everyone must play their part in fighting this virus by following this new guidance. I also want to thank the British public for all the sacrifices they are making to help keep this country safe.”
The liability for wearing a face covering lies with the individual.
Should an individual without an exemption refuse to wear a face covering, a shop can refuse them entry and can call the police. If people refuse to comply, the police have the formal enforcement powers and can issue a fine.
Businesses are encouraged to take reasonable steps to encourage customers to follow the law, including through signs and providing other information in store.
The regulations were drawn up by the Department of Health and Social Care as it is a public health issue. The full guidance is available here.