England’s Plan B Covid restrictions have now been relaxed just weeks after they were introduced in the wake of the super-infectious Omicron variant reaching the UK.
The rules saw face masks once again being made mandatory on public transport, in shops and in indoor entertainment venues – but this requirement has now been lifted, with the guidance around where face coverings may be needed purely advistory rather than law.
Other changes are set to include the rules around care homes – with the limits on the number of visitors being scrapped as of January 31.
With that in mind, just what are the rules around care home visits – do you have to wear a mask when visiting residents?
Do you have to wear a mask in care homes?
If you are visiting a care home, you will need to continue wearing a face mask.
The government website has confirmed this, saying: ‘Face coverings and face masks will continue to be required in health and care settings to comply with infection prevention and control and adult social care guidance.
‘This includes hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries. They must also be worn by everyone accessing or visiting care homes.’
The advice states that visitors not only need to wear a face covering in these settings but must keep it on for the duration of the visit ‘unless you are exempt or have a reasonable excuse for removing it’.
Those exempt from wearing a mask are as follows:
- Children under the age of 11 (The UKHSA has said face coverings are not recommended for children under the age of three for health and safety reasons)
- People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- People for whom putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress
- People speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
- To avoid the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
- Police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public
Where else do you need to wear a mask?
Although masks are not mandatory in other settings, the government has said it will ‘continue to suggest the use of masks in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet’.
Boris Johnson said, when he announced the changes to the rules, that he ‘would trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one’.
However Transport For London said that it is a ‘condition of carriage’ for passengers to wear masks, while Sainsbury’s has also said shoppers must continue to wear them in store.
Other shops, venues and transport companies may set their own rules regarding face coverings – if you are heading out somewhere and you are not sure what the requirements may be around face masks where you are going, then you should always check first.
It’s also worth noting that this advice only applies to England – Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have their own rules regarding face coverings in certain settings.
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