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Face Coverings

From 30 Nov 2021 it is compulsory for people in England to wear a face covering on all public transport, including taxis and private hire vehicles and in shops ( and public facing areas ). The new ruling has been put in place by the UK government to limit the spread of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant that was first detected in South Africa last week. Omicron has since been detected in England and Scotland, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Students in year 7 and above should wear face masks in communal areas, the Department for Education has told schools and colleges in England.

View New Variant Community Information

The latest guidance is on:


Easy Read information about the changes is available from Inclusion North.

COVID-19 remains a serious health risk and government advice is to stay cautious to help protect yourself and others.


The public have been advised to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, where they may encounter people they would not usually meet, since May and it’s been compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport in England since 15 June. It is compulsory to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets as well as in banks, building societies and post offices and in indoor train stations and terminals, indoor bus and coach stations or terminals, airports and seaports.

The list of places has been extended during August and September and is constantly updated in the government’s guidance on when to wear and how to make your own face covering .

This includes for example when travelling in taxis and private hire vehicles, in premises providing hospitality (bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes), except when seated at a table to eat or drink, in premises providing personal care and beauty treatments, at visitor attractions and entertainment venues, in public libraries and places of worship.

A face covering isn’t the same as a surgical face mask. It can be a scarf or bandana, or can be made at home. The most important thing is that it should cover the mouth and nose.

People who do not follow the new rules could be fined.

Sheffield City Council has produced advice on the disposal of face coverings

Greg Fell, Director of Public Health in Sheffield, explains the importance of wearing face coverings correctly with continued social distancing and hygiene in the video, Face Coverings – why and how to wear them safely .

Face Covering Exemptions
Children under 11 and people who are unable to wear face coverings because of their health condition ( and for other reasons ) do not have to wear a face covering.

This list of exemptions extends to anyone with justifiable reason for not wearing a face covering on the grounds of health or disability.

- Breathing difficulties and other respiratory conditions.
- Conditions affecting dexterity, meaning you are not able to put on a face covering.
- Mental health conditions such as anxiety or panic disorders.
- Other non-visible disabilities such as autism.
- Cognitive impairments, including dementia, meaning you do not understand or remember the need to wear a face covering.
- Visual impairments, with a restricted field of vision, particularly if any residual vision is at the lower edge of the normal field of view.
- Impairments which would make it difficult to put on or take off a face covering safely, accurately, consistently or without pain.

The exemptions also apply to people who rely on lip reading. This includes carers who are travelling with someone for whom a face covering would make communication difficult.

You also do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes (but is not limited to):

· not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability (as above)
· if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
· if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
· to avoid or escape harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury
· to eat or drink if necessary
· in order to take medication
· if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

There is no ‘official’ exemption card and you do not have to provide any proof of your disability to anyone. It is not compulsory to show an exemption card but if you would like to carry a card you can download and print off a card you consider appropriate for you from various websites:

Exemption Cards

GOV.UK has made available an exemption from face covering card to print and an exemption from face covering badge to print plus an exemption from face covering badge for a mobile phone .

These cards also contain the message ‘Be Kind.Keep Your Distance. Thank you for Your Understanding’ . The Government is asking the public and businesses to to be mindful of people who are exempt from wearing a face covering calling for everyone to play their part and act sensitively towards people who may need additional support.

Sheffield CCG ( NHS ) have produced a series of exemption cards bearing an NHS logo.

Hidden Disabilities exemption cards explain that you have a hidden disability and a reasonable excuse for not wearing a face covering.

Travel South Yorkshire’s Journey Assistance Cards help passengers with hidden disabilities or older passengers discreetly get help from the driver or conductor so they can travel on public transport with confidence. They also aim to help drivers and conductors be aware of any assistance or information requirements you may have. The series of cards now includes a card stating ‘I am exempt from wearing a face covering’.You can download the cards here or you can apply for a card to be sent to you using this form . They are also available at Transport Interchanges on request.

Face Coverings in Education

Useful Guides

Autism Wellbeing : Some ideas about choosing a face mask

Action on Hearing Loss : Face coverings:How the regulations apply to you

The Alzheimer’s Society : Should a person with dementia wear a face mask for coronavirus?

Asthma UK : Should I wear a face mask or face covering?

MIND : Mask anxiety,face coverings and mental health

Multiple Sclerosis Trust : Should I be wearing a face covering?

Royal National Institute for the Blind ( RNIB ): Face Covering Exemptions

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