Coronavirus: Police can now tell members of public to remove face coverings

Will Taylor
News Reporter
Face covering users should be prepared to be asked to remove their mask for identification purposes, the government has said. (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Users of face coverings should be prepared to remove them if asked by police, new government advice states.

The updated guidance is part of broader advice about staying safe when leaving the home during the coronavirus lockdown, which includes information about using face coverings.

The advice says you should wear a face covering in an enclosed public space “where social distancing isn’t possible” and when you will come into contact with people you don’t normally meet.

An update, added on Friday morning, states: “You should be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so by police officers and staff for the purposes of identification.”

Face coverings have become a much more common sight in the UK, but the government has maintained they offer little protection for a wearer.

However, they may contribute to stopping a potentially infected person from spreading it, though the advice adds that they are not a substitute for social distancing and anyone displaying symptoms must self-isolate.

Government advice also makes clear that its definition of “face coverings” is not the same as equipment used by healthcare and other workers, which should be reserved for them.

Children under the age of two should not be using them, the government says, nor anyone who would have difficulty managing them correctly.

The news comes as mayor of London Sadiq Khan said passengers could be prevented from travelling by bus or Tube in the capital without wearing a covering.

Transport for London guidance only advises passengers to wear them.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wants use of face coverings to be mandatory on the capital's public transport network. (PA Images)

Khan told the London Assembly: “Next week I’ll be considering whether I need to use the option I’ve got to make it mandatory (in the capital).”

He accepted that train services in London are not under his control and said he would lobby the government for a “sensible compromise”.

“We don’t want confusion,” he said.

“When there is a crisis, what’s important is to have message clarity.”

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