GPs should not be required to write a note for any patients who are exempt from wearing face coverings on public transport.
The Department for Transport made the clarification to Pulse after some GPs had feared a flurry of questions from patients after new rules came into force in England yesterday.
These say everyone should wear a face covering on public transport unless they ‘have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering’; or if ‘putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress’.
The Department for Transport told Pulse that public transport operators have discretion over how their staff can enforce the regulation and that if prompted by staff, passengers should explain why they are exempt from the regulation – but they are not required to produce a doctor’s note.
They added that some operators have introduced a badge or lanyard scheme which could help passengers to show they are exempt.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘We are expecting everyone – passengers, staff operators – to act reasonably.
‘We are working with operators to ensure they have appropriate communications and staff briefing in place to ensure that both staff and passengers are aware of the exemptions.’
Also with effect from yesterday, staff and visitors to hospitals are required to wear face masks. The DHSC confirmed to Pulse that no changes have been made to previous guidance on face masks in GP settings.
Exemptions – people who do not have to wear a face covering
The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to:
- a child under the age of 11
- an employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
- any other person providing services to the transport operator, under arrangements made with the transport operator, who is providing those services
- a constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
- an emergency responder such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
- an official, for example a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
- if you are allocated a cabin, berth or other similar accommodation, at any time when you are in that accommodation, either alone, or only with members of your own household or a linked household
- if you are on board public transport but remain in your private vehicle, for example on a car ferry
The requirement to wear a face covering also does not apply if you have a reasonable excuse not to. Reasonable excuses include:
- if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
- if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
- if you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
- if you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
- if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
- if you need to eat, drink, or take medication you can remove your face covering
- if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official, for example to check your railcard
Source: Department for Transport