New face mask rules are set to come into place on Friday due to concerns about the spread of the Omicron Covid variant.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has promised that these not measures do not mean there’s a lockdown on its way, just that the government is introducing plan B.
He said bringing in these tighter restrictions was the “proportionate and responsible” thing to do.
This new strategy means people should work from home where possible and wear masks in most indoors areas – but there are few exceptions, such as when eating, drinking, exercising or singing is involved.
Where you must wear a mask:
High street solicitors and accountants
Auction houses and retail galleries
Savings clubs and money service businesses
Personal care and beauty premises
Short-term loan providers
Shops and supermarkets
Food and drink takeaways
Places of worship
Private hire vehicles
Driving lessons and tests, including for HGV drivers
Pupils in year 7 and above, plus all staff members, are being “strongly advised” to wear face masks in communal areas outside the classroom in schools, but this is not yet mandatory.
Places where masks are not mandatory:
Although masks aren’t legally required in the latter settings, we know that wearing a face mask is the single biggest thing you can do to stop the spread of coronavirus, so you might want to consider masking up regardless. If you refuse to wear a mask in a mandatory setting, you risk a fine of up to £200.
Of course, some people are exempt from wearing masks, including children under the age of 11, those who cannot put on, wear or remove a covering because of physical or mental illness or impairment or disability, and those for whom it will cause severe distress.
People who rely on lip reading or facial expressions to communicate are also exempt, as well as police officers and other emergency workers.
People will be advised to work from home where possible from Monday as well, under plan B.
Vaccine passports will be introduced for some crowded venues, but the prime minister has insisted there is still no need to cancel Christmas parties or nativity plays.
There will be a vote on introducing plan B next week in parliament, and although some Tory backbenchers are likely to rebel, the motion is expected to go through.
Johnson previously announced he was bringing back rules around mask-wearing to “buy time” for scientists to understand the new variant. These “temporary and precautionary” measures were expected to be reviewed in three weeks, but the rapid spread of Omicron means plan B was introduced earlier than expected.
The restrictions is expected to be reviewed on January 5.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.