Since 10 August the use of face coverings in certain indoor settings has become mandatory. You must also wear a face covering on public transport.

Why do I have to wear a mask?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) 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. Whilst face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing. It is important to follow all the other government advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) including staying safe outside your home.

If you have recent onset of any of the most important symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19):

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

You and your household must isolate at home. Wearing a face covering does not change this. You should arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.

When do I NOT have to wear a mask (Northern Ireland)? 

  • 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, a hairdresser or a solicitor. You do not have to wear a face covering in a bank or a business that operates like a bank;
  • You do not have to wear a face covering in a gym or other place where the purpose of your attendance is aerobic exercise;
  • There are circumstances where it is not possible to wear a face covering, for example, where you are eating or drinking in a restaurant, pub or café.

For more information click here.

Who is exempt from wearing a face mask in Northern Ireland? 

You do not have to wear a face covering if:

  • you are on school transport;
  • if you are under the age of 13;
  • if you are a member of staff and are behind a protective screen;
  • if you are a passenger or a member of staff and have a reasonable excuse.

Some circumstances make it difficult for some people to wear face coverings and may have a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a face covering on public transport.

These reasonable excuses include:

  • if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering;
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress;
  • if you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate;
  • if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others;
  • if you need to eat, drink, or take medication, you can remove your face covering;
  • if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official.

There is no need to get a letter from a doctor or government to show that you do not need to wear a face covering. If you have a condition 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. It is important that we all respect one another and remember that the reasons for not wearing a face covering may not always be visible.

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.

For further information, click on Face Coverings