Face masks have become a normal part of everyday life during the Covid pandemic - but when can we stop wearing them?

Face masks are currently required in almost all indoor public spaces that remain open, both for staff and customers.

Anyone who fails to adhere to the rules will face a £200 fine. 

On Monday, the Prime Minister announced four reviews will sit below his new roadmap out of lockdown.

The reviews are designed to find answers that right now the Government feels it cannot give, including a review which will look at social distancing measures, wearing face masks and being encouraged to work from home.

The Argus: Supermarket shoppers are still meant to be wearing face masks in storesSupermarket shoppers are still meant to be wearing face masks in stores

What are the current rules for wearing face masks?

The Government has advised the public to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, like shops, where they will be with people they would not usually meet, since May 11.

The full list includes:

  • Supermarkets and shops
  • Banks and building societies
  • Transport hubs, including train stations and terminals, airports, ports, bus and coach stations or terminals
  • Post Offices
  • Sandwich shops
  • Takeaways 
  • Places of worship 
  • Schools (secondary school children and staff)
  • Taxis
  • Private vehicle hire
  • Funeral service providers

Children under 11 years old, those with "certain disabilities" and emergency workers are exempt.

Other people exempt are:

  • An employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
  • A constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An emergency response member of staff, such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • An official such as a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
  • If you are on board public transport but remain in your own vehicle, such as a car ferry

When can we stop wearing face masks?

The Government will be reviewing the use of masks before the introduction of step four of their roadmap.

Step four is the final stage before lockdown is expected to be fully over, when all restrictions should be lifted in the UK.

But that’s still some time away, and if masks are to be a thing of the past, it definitely won’t happen before June 21 at the earliest.

The Government will review all social distancing measures in place, including the mandatory face masks restriction and one metre rule as it aims to “return to as near as normal as quickly as possible”.

In the roadmap, the Government states: “The results of the review will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on one metre plus, face masks and other measures may be lifted.

“The review will also inform guidance on working from home – people should continue to work from home where they can until this review is complete.”

Mr Johnson confirmed to MPs in the House of Commons that his last phase wouldn’t start before mid-June, at which point the Government hopes to “remove all legal limits on social contact”.

The Prime Minister said: “We will aim to remove [all legal limits] on weddings and other life events.

“We will reopen everything up to and including nightclubs and enable large events such as theatre performances above the limits of step three – potentially using testing to reduce the risk of infection.”

Mr Johnson continued: “Our journey back towards normality will be subject to resolving a number of key questions and to do this we will conduct four reviews.

“One will assess how long we need to maintain social distancing and face masks.

“This will also inform guidance on working from home which should continue wherever possible until this review is complete.”

However, a SAGE sub-group, the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) has warned “maintaining baseline measures” will still be required even when life does get back to normality.

The Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, has also urged people to take extra care and suggests masks could be the key to cope with next winter.

Sir Patrick said: “It’s more likely to be that we wear masks in certain places, that we are continuing with hand washing, making sure that we are sensible about the way in which we interact with people in indoor environments.

“I would be very surprised if we go in year-on-year with needing to do more things than that.

“But this coming winter, I think we need to wait and see how far we get on with the current reduction in numbers that needs to occur.”