Face coverings policy FAQs

Why is the College asking people to wear face coverings?

The face covering policy is informed by advice from the government, senior clinicians and public health experts at the University. Wearing face coverings can reduce transmission of coronavirus from an infected person to others because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection.

The wearing of face coverings is to be considered a social responsibility for members of the collegiate University who can wear them, with the aim of reducing risk and providing increased reassurance to all, including those most vulnerable to serious illness.

Face coverings are not a substitute for hygiene and safety measures such as being tested when displaying symptoms, self-isolating when unwell or advised to, social distancing, enhanced cleaning regimes, and regular hand-washing, and these primary mitigation measures should always be followed.

Who does the policy apply to?

The University and Colleges now expect all members of the Cambridge community to wear face coverings at all times in all indoor work or study settings, even if social distancing of at least 2 metres can be maintained. The only exceptions are work in single-occupancy rooms with closed doors, when actively eating or drinking, or when the individual concerned is exempt (see below). 

What are the exemptions?

In line with the exemptions that apply in public spaces such as on public transport and in shops, the requirement to wear face coverings in College buildings will not apply to those who have a legitimate reason.

Exemptions include:

  • not being able to put on, wear, or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing, or removing a face covering will cause severe distress
  • where interacting with someone who uses lip reading to communicate, or who has social communication impairments
  • children aged under 11 years

Do I need to provide evidence that I am exempt from wearing a face covering?

There is no requirement to provide evidence that you have a legitimate reason not to wear a face covering, or that you may require others to briefly remove theirs so that you can understand them (eg to lip read).

Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering and the government has provided printable resources for people who prefer to have something to show people. This is a personal choice and it is not required.

It is not appropriate to challenge someone who is not wearing a face covering. It should be assumed that there is a legitimate reason why they cannot.

Where am I required to wear a face covering?

You are required to wear a face covering in all College buildings.

This includes:

  • In stairwells
  • In the Buttery
  • In the College Library, including while seated at desks
  • In the Porters’ Lodges
  • In the Mail Rooms
  • In the Chapel
  • In your room/office if other people - such as members of the Housekeeping or Maintenance teams - are present 
  • In communal areas of College rooms, Hostels, offices and buildings if you are not solely with your household 
  • When people from separate households are in the same room 
Are there any exceptions where face coverings are not required?

The only exceptions are if you are working in single-occupancy rooms with closed doors, when actively eating or drinking, or when the individual concerned has one of the exemptions mentioned above.

If you are in any doubt – wear a face covering until you have confirmed that one isn’t required.

What should I do if I am concerned that someone is not wearing a face covering?

Signage informing and reminding people of the requirement to wear face coverings is displayed prominently around the College. It is important to remember that some people have legitimate reasons why they are not able to wear a face covering. Some of these reasons may be hidden and people should not be asked if they have an exemption, or the reasons for it.

How long will this policy be in place for?

It is not yet known how long St John’s and the wider collegiate University will require face coverings to be worn, but all policies will be reviewed regularly by the Covid Silver Group which currently meets on a weekly basis.

View the University advice on wearing a face covering