7 things to know about the new face-mask legislation
On Monday August 31, 2020, government amended the Public Health Ordinance to institute a fine for anyone seen not wearing a face mask in public.
According to the Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 27) Regulations, 2020, here are seven things to know about the new legislation, valid from September 1-12, 2020:
1. You can wear a face mask, face shield or face covering
According to the regulations, a ‘face covering’ refers to a covering of any type which covers the nose, mouth and chin of the person wearing it.
2. All must wear a face mask in public or when travelling
According to Section 6 (7) of the regulations: ‘No person shall, without reasonable excuse, be in a public space without wearing a face mask, face shield, or face covering in a manner which covers his mouth, nose and chin.’
Meanwhile, Section 6 (1) of the regulations states: ‘No person shall, without reasonable excuse, travel in a vehicle or vessel without wearing a face mask, face shield or face covering in a manner which covers his nose, mouth and chin.’
Parents and/or guardians must also ensure that children with them must also wear face masks (if the child is over eight years of age).
Additionally, employees working in spaces which interact with the public must also wear face masks (Section 7 (6)).
This regulation includes anyone running or exercising in public.
3. Several exemptions apply
Under Section 6 (4) and Section 7 (5) of the regulations, exemptions or a 'reasonable excuse' are as follows:
‘The circumstances in which a person has a reasonable excuse include those where –
(a) the person cannot put on, wear or remove a face mask, face shield or face covering
(i) because of any physical or mental illness of impairment, or disability; or
(ii) without severe distress
(b) the person is travelling with, or providing assistance to, another person and such other person relies on lip reading to communicate with the first person;
(c) the person removes their face mask, face shield of face covering to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury to himself or others;
(d) the person is travelling to avoid injury or to escape a risk of harm and does not have a face mask, face shield of face covering with him;
(e) if it is reasonably necessary for the person to eat or drink, the person removes his face mask, face shield or face covering to eat or drink;
(f) the person has to remove his face mask, face shield or face covering to take medication; and
(g) a request is made of the person to remove his face mask, face shield or face covering temporarily for security and identification purposes.
4. Solo drivers, children under eight exempt from face mask rule
According to Section 7 (4) of the regulations, children under the age of eight are not required to wear face masks in public spaces or while travelling in a vehicle*.
Drivers travelling alone, where there are no passengers in the vehicle, are also not required to wear face masks.
Employees working in an area not for public access or behind a physical barrier, are also exempt from the this requirement, subject to Ministry of Health guidelines.
5. Penalty fine if caught without a mask
According to Section 6 (5) of the regulations, anyone contravening the regulations is liable to a fixed penalty fine set out in Schedule 1.
Anyone caught by police not wearing a face mask in public can be subject to a fixed penalty fine of $1,000 for the first offence, $2,000 for the second offence and $3,000 for the third offence.
Failure to pay the fixed penalty may result, on summary conviction, to a fine of $5,000 and a term of imprisonment of three days.
6. No boat ‘raft-ups’
According to the regulations, there is to be no ‘rafting-up’ (tying vessels together) for recreational purposes.
7. Public transport capacity limited to 75 percent
Additionally, public transport vehicles have been limited to 75 percent of capacity for five-seater motor vehicles*, and not more than 65 percent for every other type of motor vehicle, as per Section 8 of the regulations.
See here for the full regulations or view the gallery below: https://bit.ly/32PDkZR
COVID-19 Public Health Regulations No. 27
*Editor's note: Please note exemptions for children under eight years were amended as per statements made by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi at a media briefing on August 31, 2020 and via Legal Notice No. 308 which was published in the Gazette on September 1, 2020. This corrects a previous version which was printed in error.