Face masks are set to become a part of everyday life following the government announcement that face coverings are now mandatory on public transport and in hospitals.
It was recently announced that from 24 July, face coverings will be mandatory in all shops and supermarkets in England. People who don't will face a fine of up to £100, apart from people with medical conditions and children under 11.
If you're picking up a takeaway coffee or food in England, you'll also have to wear a mask, but this rule doesn't apply to sit-in meals. The Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, confirmed: “If you’re going in to buy a takeaway, and leaving again, you’re treating it like a shop - and you should be wearing a face mask.”
On 14 July health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We want to give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protections for those who work in shops," while noting the disproportionate impact that the pandemic has had on shop workers.
"The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75 per cent higher amongst men and 60 per cent higher amongst women than in the general population,” he added.
Since 15 June, anyone travelling by train, Tube, bus, ferry or plane in England has had to wear a face covering. People who don't can be refused on transport and fined £100. Those under the age of 11 and people with disabilities or breathing problems are exempt, as well as anyone travelling with someone who lip-reads.
There has been wide criticism over the government's recommendation to wear a face covering on public transport only.
Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the UK's national science academy, said on 7 July that everyone should carry a face covering when they leave home."Not wearing a face covering should be regarded as 'anti-social' in the same way as drink driving or failing to wear a seatbelt."
Wearing a face covering will be even more important as lockdown measures start to lift. Since 4 July pubs, restaurants, hotels, cinemas, museums and art galleries have begun to reopen, and social distancing guidance has been reduced from 2m to 1m-plus.
When it comes to hospitals, all visitors and outpatients in England are advised to wear face coverings. Health staff will now wear surgical masks at all times.
Uber has also made face coverings mandatory for drivers and customers, and is taking additional safety measures such as regularly sanitising their cars. Customers will also be reminded to sit in the backseat only and to roll down the windows for ventilation.
From 10 July, it's compulsory to wear one in shops in Scotland has been on public transports since June – including the Glasgow Subway, Edinburgh trams and taxi – except for people with certain medical conditions and children under five.
In Wales, face coverings will be mandatory on public transport from 27 July, including in taxis. The Welsh Government is also advising people to wear masks in crowded places where social distancing is not possible, but this is not compulsory. The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have also imposed the same rules for public transport.
While medical face masks aren’t necessary for the general public and should be reserved for frontline staff and key workers only, you can find adult face coverings here, made by small, independent brands.
If you have children, you may be wondering how this rule applies. This is what the government guidelines for children are.
What’s the age limit for children wearing face coverings?
The official guidance from the government's Covid-19 recovery strategy document explains that if your child is under the age of two, cannot put one on themselves, or has a respiratory condition, they don't need to wear a face covering at all.
All other children can wear one, but for those under the age of 11, it is not mandatory for them to wear a face covering on public transport.
The government was clear in its guidelines that face coverings are not the same as a face mask such as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers, and it reiterated that these supplies must continue to be reserved for those who need it.
When and where should they wear them?
According to the government: “Face coverings may be beneficial for short periods indoors where there is a risk of close social contact with people you do not usually meet and where social distancing and other measures cannot be maintained, for example on public transport or in some shops. This does not apply to schools or other education settings.
“Schools and other education or childcare settings should therefore not require staff, children and learners to wear face coverings. Changing habits, cleaning and hygiene are effective measures in controlling the spread of the virus.”
Some primary schools in England reopened from 1 June to pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 6.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also updated its guidance to recommend that governments ask everyone to wear fabric face masks in public areas where there is a risk of transmission of COVID-19, in order to help reduce the spread of the pandemic disease.
However, it has stressed that face masks are only one of a range of tools that can reduce the risk of viral transmission, and should not give a false sense of protection.
It's also important to note that while valves are a common sight in some face coverings, avoid buying a face covering with a valve, as they do very little. Marisa Glucoft, director of infection prevention Children’s Hospital Los Angeles explained why they're ineffective: “When you wear a mask with a valve, people around you are not protected because the valve lets all of your breath into the air.”
Where to buy face coverings for kids
Ahead we've rounded up some independent brands who are making their own masks for children.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Founded by mother-of-three Jo Bates, Thumbsie creates fabric gloves to help children to stop sucking their thumbs. It has since started to create fabric face masks for kids in light of the pandemic.
While you can’t buy individual masks due to the high demand, you can still buy its two or four mask packs. The packs are available in three sizes, S, M and L, and are suitable for children between three and 16. A pack of two is £18 and a pack of four is £35, and they are available in prints such as pirates, flamingos and superheroes.
Its masks are made from poly cotton and cotton and have an inner pocket so you can insert your own filter if you wish. The elastic straps are adjustable too.
This Midlands-based casual wear label has designed face coverings to buy, having diverted its manufacturing process to create a range of different styles for adults and children.
The masks come in two sizes, one for adults and one for children, and both are available in varying machine washable prints, such as camo and tie-dye, and can be bought individually or in packs of three starting from £9.99.
With elasticated ear loops and fabric made from polyester and elastane, some of the masks come with a built-in filter while others come without, we’re sure the funky prints will keep kids occupied long enough to keep them on. Plus, for some styles, all profits will go to the NHS to help key workers on the frontline.
In a surprising turn, stationery brand Vistaprint has manufactured a range of kids and adults face masks that are being dispatched from 28 May, costing £13 each.
There’s plenty of kid-friendly fabrics to choose from including colourful doodles, khaki green, baby pink, stripes, lightning bolts and hearts.
Every mask comes with a replaceable filter system that can be rewashed, a 100 per cent cotton anti-allergenic inner layer, a three-dimensional chin structure, adjustable straps and a nose bridge.
For every reusable mask bought, Vistaprint is also pledging to give 10 per cent of sales to local communities impacted by the pandemic.
You'll find adult and kids masks available in Rachel Riley’s signature prints of flowers, gingham and more.
Each one costs £19 and they are suitable for children aged three and above, and the same designs are available for adults, so you can match if you like. They are made with a cotton satin lining, polyester inner layer and cotton outer layer.
It will also be donating 10 percent of profits from the sales of its face masks to Best Beginnings, a UK charity that supports parents during pregnancy and the early stages of parenthood.
This indie US apparel brand has started making organic cotton face masks during the coronavirus crisis. Suitable for children aged between two and eight, the brand offers masks for adults too, and they are available to UK customers.
The masks are available in pink, blue, black or white and cost £17, however, if you buy two you get 20 per cent off, and if you buy four, you can get 25 per cent off.
Every mask is reusable and the brand recommends to wash it with soap and water before air drying or tumble drying on a low heat.
Made with two layers of a soft cotton blend fabric, Lancashire Textiles has made children's reusable protective face masks for £8.99 each.
There are three different prints to choose from: polka dots, stripes and gingham in pink and blue styles. Each one comes with elasticated straps to keep them in place.
For every mask sold, it is donating £1 to the East Lancashire NHS Trust too.