Wednesday, 23 September 2020

COVID-19: FACE COVERING CHANGES: ENGLAND

I know you love 'em so let me present (cue drum roll) SI 2020/1026 - The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place and on Public Transport) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 which were made this morning and come into force in England tomorrow Thursday 24 September 202o. Here is an authoratative extracted summary of what they do from the government. "In order to increase the protection offered to members of the public and workers in hospitality settings, these Amending Regulations amend Schedule 1 of the Face Covering Regulations to require individuals to wear a face covering when in a restaurant, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members' clubs, bars, including bars in hotels or members' clubs, public houses and theatres. Regulation 2(8) of the Amending Regulations amends Schedule 1 of the Face Covering Regulations by removing the exclusion for areas with seating or tables provided for the consumption of food and drink. Members of the public are therefore required to wear a face covering when entering, leaving and moving around in these hospitality settings. The reasonable excuses in Regulation 4 of the Face Covering Regulations are unchanged. As such face coverings can be removed within these settings for the purposes of eating and drinking or taking medication. This amendment will reduce the risk of passing on the infection when moving through a restaurant, bar or other hospitality setting, hence offering greater protections to those visiting these indoor spaces as well as those working within them. While face coverings are not a substitute for distancing and hand hygiene, there is some evidence to suggest that when used correctly, face coverings may have some benefit in reducing the likelihood of those with the infection passing it on to others, particularly if they are asymptomatic. Regulation 2(4) of these Amending Regulations inserts a new Regulation 2A into the Face Covering Regulations. The effect of Regulation 2A is that it now requires staff and other workers to wear face coverings in the settings listed in Schedule 3, where these are open to the public, and the staff member may or is likely to come into contact with members of the public. This includes staff working in public facing areas in shops, supermarkets, museums, galleries, cinemas and other indoor settings as outlined in the new Schedule 3 to the Face Covering Regulations. Regulation 2(4) of the Amending Regulations also inserts a new Regulation 2B into the Face Covering Regulations. Regulation 2B states that the requirement to wear a face covering does not supersede any obligations placed on employees by their employers to wear Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE). In such case, employees would be expected to comply with the provisions outlined by their employer, in conjunction with any obligations under the Health and Safety at Work act 1974, and wear RPE. Including staff within the scope of the Face Covering Regulations will enhance the protections offered to both workers and customers in these settings, where people are more likely to come into close contact with others they do not regularly meet. This will help minimise the spread of the virus particularly when moving around these settings. Regulation 2(5) of these Amending Regulations inserts a new exemption in Regulation 3(2)(o) the Face Covering Regulations. A staff member or other worker in a setting listed in Schedule 3 which is open to the public will not be required to wear a face covering if they are a performer performing in the course of their employment or in the course of providing their services. SAGE has previously advised that there is evidence to recommend the use of cloth masks in certain higher-risk settings as a precautionary measure where masks could be at least partially effective. These settings would be enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible to maintain consistently, creating a risk of close social contact with multiple parties the person does not usually meet. Distancing (>2 metres) remains the preferred option where possible. In such settings, evidence would support a policy where cloth masks could be used for short durations where unavoidable closer interactions with others are occurring or likely. This advice does not replace or change existing advice on other measures – such as hand washing, social distancing and self-isolation. Mandating the use of face coverings in additional hospitality settings and extending the requirement to staff and other workers working in customer facing roles, when used alongside other measures, therefore offers a reasonable protective measure to reduce the risk of infection on contamination by a virus that presents a significant harm to public health. The Amending Regulations also make changes to the Fixed Penalty Amounts for offences in relevant places and on public transport. Regulation 2(6) of this instruments amends Regulation 7 of the Face Covering Regulations and the Public Transport Regulations so that the amount of a FPN imposed for the first offence under the Face Covering Regulations is now set at £200 (previously £100), and continue to double at each subsequent offence up to a maximum amount of £6400. The amount of a FPN for the first offence will now reduce to an increased amount of £100 (previously £50) if paid within 14 days. There are no reductions from the second or subsequent fines. This is in line with penalties for other national coronavirus regulations. Whilst the vast majority of people have complied with rules throughout the pandemic, and enforcement measures remain a last resort, these amendments will further deter noncompliance and tackle those who repeatedly breach the requirement to wear a face covering.'