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When and where do you need to wear a face mask in London?

Fines for flouting rules around face coverings are increasing again

Ellie Walker-Arnott
Written by
Ellie Walker-Arnott

Never before has an accessory been so hotly debated. But the last few months have seen the face mask code of conduct change again and again. And now, the rules around wearing face coverings in England have made more changes – it’s safe to say that gone are the days of exposing our chops in public, willy-nilly. 

First, we were required to wear face coverings on all forms of public transport. On Friday July 24, face coverings became compulsory in England in shops and supermarkets, plus banks, coffee shops and takeaway restaurants. Then the government announced a whole host of venues in which you’re now required to wear a mask. Now on the list are museums, cinemas, hair salons, nail bars, tattoo parlours, libraries, massage parlours, public areas in hotels, places of worship, bingo halls and even escape rooms. Basically, think of any indoor venue and it’s likely you’ll have to wear a mask to visit it.  

And now, you can add hospitality venues to the mix. From Thursday September 24, not only will all staff be required to wear a mask at all times, but visitors will have to mask up, too when not seated at a table. Face coverings will be required for entering and moving around a restaurant, bar, pub and café. And staff in hospitality and leisure venues – as well as retail – are now also required to wear a face covering in areas open to the public.  

If you don’t wear one at the required venue, they can refuse you entry – and if you’re caught breaching the rules, the fine you could face is set to increase, too.

Previously, those not sticking to the rules could face a fine of up to £100 – which could be reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days. But as of September 24, the first-time fine will now be set at £200 (or £100 if paid within 14 days). And for reoffenders, the total will keep doubling until it reaches a maximum of £6,400, after five repeat offences.   

As before, some people are exempt from wearing face coverings, including children under the age of 11 and people with certain disabilities. You’re also permitted to remove your mask when travelling with, providing assistance to or speaking to someone who relies on lip-reading to communicate. 

FYI, face coverings are not the same as medical-grade face masks or PPE. You just have to wear something that safely covers your nose and mouth. That can be a single-use mask, a reusable cloth mask, a scarf or a bandana, as long as it securely fits around your face. 

You can check out the full guidance and find out how to make your own government-approved face covering at

Want a mask that matches your outfit? Here are nine reusable masks created by London makers.

And here are 12 arty face masks you can buy from iconic museums around the world

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