New restrictions in force from Friday 24 July

Blackburn with Darwen Council have released updated guidance around face coverings in readiness for them to be compulsory in shops and supermarkets from Friday (24 July)

Shoppers across the country will be required to wear a face covering when they go shopping from Friday.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Director of Public Health Dominic Harrison introduced new precautionary measures last week in a bid to avoid a Leicester-style lockdown.  This included advising residents to wear face coverings when out shopping and in enclosed public spaces – ahead of the new government rules.

He went further asking residents not to hand shake or hug, maintain two metre social distancing, increasing targeted testing and limiting household meetings to just two people from another household.

The new Government rules, which come into force on Friday, mean there will be a £100 fine for failing to wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces such as shops and supermarkets.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Do face coverings actually work?

Scientific evidence suggests face coverings help prevent you from passing coronavirus on to other people if you are sick.  It does not protect you from breathing in the virus unless it is a full-blown piece of medical PPE – something which is not recommended.  If you have symptoms, you should be self-isolating at home, but many people get Covid-19 without symptoms and can spread it rapidly.

Face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing, you should do both.

Why are Blackburn and Darwen taking extra precautions? 

We lobbied Government early as we know wearing a face covering is an important control measure. By wearing a face covering, the principal works in that you protect me and I protect you.

We know that the main route of spread is from people who have no symptoms, touching surfaces and then touching your face and eyes. Washing hands regularly remains key. By taking these special measures in Blackburn and Darwen and by asking everyone to wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces, it makes Blackburn with Darwen even more Covid safe.

Are there any exemptions?

Yes. As with public transport, children under 11 will not have to wear a face covering. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own#exemptions-to-wearing-a-face-covering-where-they-are-mandated)  Those who can’t affix a face covering without suffering severe distress, or who have difficulty using it due to a physical or mental disability, are also exempt.

Will it be the law or just ‘guidance’?

The Government measures mean it will be law to wear a face covering in shops and supermarkets. Regulations will be made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 – the same law used as the basis for many lockdown restrictions. The additional measures introduced in BwD are guidance that we are asking everyone to adhere to help control the spread.

Is it a mask or just a ‘covering’?

The law will define a face “covering”. This is not a surgical mask and can be a piece of cloth. It must however cover your nose and mouth.  Here’s a handy guide to making your own: https://theshuttle.org.uk/make-it-wear-it-wash-it/?highlight=face%20covering, or they can be bought relatively cheaply from many shops or online.

How much can I be fined?

Those caught by police contravening the law will be fined £100, reducing to £50 if paid within 14 days.  Unlike previous lockdown laws, this £100 fine will not double on each repeat offence. It remains fixed at £100 each time.

What if I refuse?

On public transport, for example, those who obstruct or ignore orders from police “without reasonable excuse” commit an offence and can be prosecuted.

What about pubs, cafes and restaurants?

The guidance says you don’t need to wear a face covering if you are eating or drinking but it is advised that people wear a covering when not eating/drinking. The environment secretary George Eustice has said that face masks will not be made compulsory in pubs/restaurants. We want to go further than this and ask people to wear face coverings wherever practical to do so in enclosed spaces.

Establishments have a duty to remain Covid safe and are expected to keep records of customers, provide hand sanitiser and ensure social distancing is adhered to. Guidance for these settings is being kept under review.

For further information visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own#exemptions-to-wearing-a-face-covering-where-they-are-mandated

What about face coverings at work

There is no universal face coverings guidance for workplaces because of the variety of work environments in different industries. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has provided detailed guidance for specific workplace settings.

Employers must make sure that the risk assessment for their business addresses the risks of COVID-19 using BEIS guidance to inform decisions and control measures including close proximity working. 

As a general rule, it is important to note that coronavirus (COVID-19) is a different type of risk to the risks normally faced in a workplace and needs to be managed through a hierarchy or system of control including social distancing, high standards of hand hygiene, increased surface cleaning, fixed teams or partnering, and other measures such as using screens or barriers to separate people from each other.

These measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace. If employees choose to wear a face covering, normal policies relating to occupational workwear and PPE will continue to apply.

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