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What are the rules regarding face masks/coverings in Northern Ireland?


On 2 July 2020, the Northern Ireland Executive announced face coverings will become mandatory on public transport from Friday, 10 July.  This means if you are using a bus, train or ferry service in NI you are required by law to wear a face covering, as well as on public transport premises, such as stations.  This rule will not apply to people with relevant medical conditions and children under 13. 

The face covering can be a covering of any type which covers a person's nose and mouth, it does not have to be a surgical face mask  

The Executive are continuing to explore if, and when, this will apply to the tour coach and taxi industry. Face masks will not be mandatory on outdoor areas of ferries, or on school transport. 

The Public Health Agency (PHA), also strongly advise that we should think about using face coverings in other particular circumstances - short periods in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible e.g. in shops  

What is the difference between a face mask and a face covering?

Medical face masks include respirator and surgical masks. These are considered to be PPE (personal protective equipment), and are mainly used in health and social care settings and some specific work environments.

People in the general public, are advised to wear face coverings. These are most commonly made out of cloth and cover the nose and mouth. They can be secured to the head with ties or straps. They may be manufactured or home made.

The UK Government has provided official information on how to make your own face covering.  Find it here

Are face coverings effective against COVID-19?

We are still learning about the effectiveness of face coverings to stop the spread of COVID-19.  There is a limited amount of research available, but studies are ongoing to find out more.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently say there is not enough evidence to support the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting.  However, based on research that is available they do advise people to wear face coverings in certain situations where social distancing is not possible. These include public transport, some enclosed work environments and cramped living environments.

How do I use a face covering?

The UK Government has provided guidance on how to wear face coverings: 

  • A cloth face covering should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably.
  • It can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on and after taking it off.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.
  • Do not touch the front of the face covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose.
  • Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched.
  • You should wash a face covering regularly. It can go in with other laundry, using your normal detergent.
  • When wearing a face covering, take care to tuck away any loose ends.

Source: GOV.UK  How to wear and make a cloth face covering

Watch a video on how to use face coverings here

Face coverings should not give us a false sense of security 

Even if we are using a face covering, it is essential to keep:

  •  Social distancing: staying at least 2m (6 feet) away from other people. 
  •  Washing our hands regularly using soap and water
  •  If we cough or sneeze, use a tissue to cover our mouth and nose, throw it away carefully after use, and wash our hands.

These are still the best ways to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19.  


 have written a full article on the rules regarding face masks/coverings in Northern Ireland.  You can read it here