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Wearing a mask or mouth and nose covering

From 10am on Tuesday 1 December masks will be mandatory in some indoor public settings and must be worn by anyone over the age of 12 who is able to do so unless exempt.


The new law allows for several exemptions and anyone who is exempt is able to wear a clear face shield if they choose to. Under the law clear face shields are not deemed a "mask" and so should not be worn unless the wearer has a mask exemption. Clear face shields can continue to be worn by staff within business sectors as this falls under different regulations.

Enforcement measures

Anyone not using a mask without reasonable excuse and who is not exempt could be fined up to £1,000.

When you must use a mask or other mouth and nose covering

As of Tuesday 1 December all Islanders over the age of 12 who are able to do so must now wear a suitable mask when inside the following public places:

  • inside all shops and supermarkets including pharmacies, banks, post offices, larger petrol stations with food / retail aisles and inside covered indoor markets
  • when using public and private-hire transport, including in buses and taxis, inside the bus station and when inside the airport or harbour. Masks are strongly recommended when inside covered bus / taxi shelters
  • inside healthcare settings such as hospitals, GP surgeries, dental surgeries, other health clinics and allied health services
  • when visiting residential care homes
  • when using close-contact services such as hairdressers, beauty salons, nail bars, sports and massage therapies, piercing and tattoo parlours, cosmetics and beauty therapies, wellness therapies, and any similar settings which would normally involves close personal contact
  • by greeters, bar staff, waiting staff, baristas within restaurants, bars, cafes and any other member of staff who interacts with customers in a setting which serves food and drink (note this does not currently include customers)

Non-mandatory settings where masks are still recommended

Masks and other mouth and nose coverings continue to be strongly recommended (but not mandatory) in any of the following:settings in which physical distancing cannot be guaranteed. This may include tight spaces, as well as queues and crowding especially during peak times

  • provision of any customer facing service that involves indoor close contact over a period of more than 15 minutes. This may include consultations and services where explanation of terms and conditions or document signing is required
  • settings that pose challenges for contact tracing. This may include a high number of people passing through throughout the day, where it's difficult to enforce public health measures, and / or collect or hold personal details
  • settings that involve people who would be classed as being at moderate or high risk. This also includes when visiting private homes of Islanders classed as being at moderate or high risk
  • when attending worship or ceremonies including marriage ceremonies and funeral services at any point when not seated, when physical distancing cannot be guaranteed
  • where any journey or ride sharing in a private vehicle include people from different households 
  • visiting schools
  • anywhere else that prefers customers/visitors to wear masks

Exempt from wearing a mask

If any of the following criteria apply to you, you can download and print an exemption certificate and card:

  • if you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress to you
  • if you need to speak to or provide assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate or if you wearing a mask will cause distress to the person you are assisting

Children under the age of 12 don't need to have exemption certificates or cards.

Exemption cards

If any of the criteria above apply to you, you can download and print and a mask exemption certificate and printable card. Carrying an exemption card is a personal choice and is not required by law.

Mask exemption certificate and printable card

Others may be exempt within their professional role when acting in accordance with their professional duties:

  • public transport workers if use of a mask would be unsafe (unless other mitigation measures for COVID-19 are not in place)
  • police officers and other emergency workers
  • people speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate if wearing a mask causes distress to the person assistance is being provided for
  • during emergencies, to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others, including if it would negatively impact on the ability to participate in a strenuous activity

When masks can be temporarily removed inside a mandated setting

You are permitted to remove your mask within a mandated setting in any of the below scenarios:

  • if asked to do so by staff or relevant employees within mandated areas for identification, assessing health recommendations (for example, by a pharmacist), or for age identification purposes including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
  • if required in order to receive treatment or services, for example when getting a facial, dental treatment
  • in order to aid effective communication
  • in order to take medication
  • if undertaking an activity and it would negatively impact your ability or your safety such as participating in a strenuous activity

Where masks are not recommended

Although you may choose to wear a mask in areas other than mandated settings some situations are not recommended:

  • during exercise or strenuous activity
  • in an emergency situation in which a mouth or nose covering may impede communication, or when emergency services personnel are working in their role

Types of masks you can wear

Under the law a suitable mask is defined as any mass produced or home-made mask or similar device which covers both the mouth and nose. This means as long as you buy or make a "mask" of any kind it is deemed suitable as long as it also meets the following criteria:

  • produced for the purpose of being able to block or contain respiratory droplets (anything designed to be a mask which covers both the mouth and nose will do this)
  • it has no visible holes or tears on the front which would allow respiratory droplets to leave the mask without first being filtered in some way

Suitable mouth and nose coverings include:

  • cloth/fabric masks made from single or multiple layers (either handmade or bought)
  • medical masks, PPE and face shields

Unsuitable mouth and nose coverings include:

  • masks with in-built valves that do not have a filter
  • clear face shields / visors (unless the person is exempt from using a mask)
  • any mask with visible holes on the front which would allow breath to pass through without being filtered 

Three layer fabric masks

These are made from:

  • an inner absorbent layer,
  • a middle (often removable) filter layer
  • non-absorbent outer layer

A mask with multiple layers of fabric are better than single layer masks.

Valved masks are not recommended as they do not filter particles when breathed out.

When choosing or making a mask always ensure it fits correctly and allows you to breathe easily.

Clear face shields 

Clear face shields (or visors) offer a similar level of effectiveness as cloth masks and may be preferred in situations where the use of cloth masks is problematic or counter-productive. Examples could include:

  • to aid communication (especially lip reading)
  • if a mask would be worn for a longer period of tim
  • in moist or damp environments and in situations in which cloth masks could be handled more often

Children and cloth masks

No child under the age of 2 years or any child unable to remove the mask by themselves or with breathing difficulties should wear a mask.

The wearing of cloth masks for children over the age of 2 but under 12 is the decision of their parent or guardian.

Wearing of masks on the public buses remains a condition of carriage for children over the age of 11.

Children over 12 are legally required to wear a mask and are treated as adults, as such they can request an exemption if they meet criteria.

Essential workers across our services may be using masks when working closely with children to reduce the risk of unknowingly passing on the infection. 

Islanders at higher risk

People who are at high or moderate risk are strongly encouraged to wear cloth masks (or face shields) when visiting settings described above. You may, depending on your health condition, be exempt and should read the exemption section above. You may also want to consider asking any visitors you may have to your household to wear a mask.  

While COVID-19 activity is effectively controlled through our track and trace system, border testing, and the isolation of positive cases, mask wearing is an additional precaution for this group alongside other public health measures and local activity risk guidance.

Should the local situation change and it is felt that the local risk can no longer be effectively managed, further guidance will be issued to this group, which could include a recommendation to wear clinical, rather than cloth masks, and to avoid indoor environments.

Health or care workers

Cloth mouth and nose coverings are not PPE. Under no circumstances would a cloth mask be a suitable substitute for personal protective equipment (PPE) in any clinical setting. 

However, cloth masks may be appropriate for health and care workers in certain circumstances which are not patient facing. 

Further information on the circumstances in which PPE is necessary and those in which cloth masks may be appropriate is available on PPE guidance for healthcare professionals and other essential workers.

Why you need to wear a mask

COVID-19 is commonly spread through respiratory droplets which occur every time an infected person breathes out, talks, clears their throat or while coughing and sneezing. People infected with COVID-19 can spread it before symptoms occur and when they do not show symptoms at all. Wearing a mouth or nose covering helps to reduce these droplets from spreading to another person.

The risk of catching COVID-19 is increasing with many countries around us experiencing a second wave.  As we move into winter the colder temperatures, cold and flu season, and increased time indoors can increase the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses affecting individual health and the capacity of our healthcare system. 

There is strong evidence that mouth and nose coverings (such as masks or face shields) are effective in reducing the spread of several respiratory viruses including COVID-19, especially when used alongside good hand hygiene, and physical distancing where possible.

For these reasons mouth and nose coverings are strongly recommended throughout the winter in indoor public settings and mandatory in some cases. The recent move to mandatory, rather than voluntary, use is to make sure they are used as much as possible in high risk settings and situations.

Putting on and taking off a cloth mask

Always wash your hands before and after touching your mask.

You should not wear a mask if it is:

  • too loose
  • looks damaged or dirty
  • is too difficult to breath through

To put on a cloth mask:

  1. Hold the mask by the ear loops or edges to avoid touching the font of the mask
  2. Place the mask on your face making sure to covering your mouth, nose and chin
  3. If you need to adjust the mask do so by the edges or ear loops

To take off a cloth mask:

  1. Remove the mask by the ear loops taking care not to touch the front or inside of the mask
  2. Hold the mask by the ear loops or edges to avoid touching the font of the mask
  3. Store the mask inside a clean plastic bag (such as a sandwich bag) or a hard plastic container

Storing, cleaning and disposing of masks

Washing cloth masks

If a mask has a middle filter layer, we recommend replacing the filter at least daily and disposing of the old filter. It is important to wash and dry your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before handling a new filter and again after handling a used filter.

When washing masks we recommend a hot wash cycle around 60 degrees Celsius or higher with soap or detergent.

Do not use disinfectants to clean masks as these can soak into the fabric and later be breathed in causing health problems and/or skin irritation.

Storage and disposal of masks

It is important to store and dispose of masks properly, making sure to always wash your hands before handling a new mask and after handling a used mask.

To store a mask before or after use we recommend a non-porous disposable plastic bag (such as a sandwich bag) or a reusable sturdy plastic container that can be wiped with 70% to 90% alcohol sanitiser and left for a minute to dry before re-use.

Single-use masks, inner filters and other fabric masks should be disposed of carefully in normal household waste bins (non-recyclable). Try to avoid touching the inside of a mask or the middle of a filter layer and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. If using an outdoor bin, try to use a bin with a closing lid.

Changing masks

If you are using a mask whilst you are in a public indoor space for two hours or less, you should only need to change and wash your mask once back at home, so that it's ready for your next use.

If you are wearing a cloth mask for more than two hours you may need to change your mask, particularly if it becomes damp and uncomfortable.

If your mask has a middle filter layer you should change this daily. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your mask and/or filter.

Cleaning plastic face shields

If your plastic face shield comes with its own specific cleaning instructions, we recommend you follow these carefully.

If your face shield does not come with instructions, we recommend cleaning them daily as a minimum or as deemed necessary depending on environment, how often they are handled and if there are signs of fingerprints or other marks in either side of the shield.

Face shields can be cleaned by submerging them in warm soapy water and gently rubbing with a soft sponge or cloth. Submerging rather than wiping results in less marks which could affect vision. Rinse the shield in running water and dry with a soft cotton towel, microfiber cloth or leave to air dry.

Just like with hand hygiene, soap and water removes microbes and viruses and is all that is needed.

While wiping with disinfectant may seem quick and easy this may not always be the case. If using disinfectant wipes or sprays, first ensure that the product is safe for use on plastics.

When disinfecting, follow the instructions on the disinfectant carefully including the wet contact time, and ensure to clean the inside and outside surfaces of the shield as well as any touch points. Disinfectants may also lead to visible residue on the shield which should be rinsed off with water to ensure good visibility. If you opt to regularly disinfect a face shield it should also be washed with soap and water whenever possible.

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