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Face coverings policy FAQs

Why is the College asking people to wear face coverings?

The introduction of the face covering policy is informed by advice from senior clinicians and public health experts at the University. There is increasing evidence that 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 policy applies to all Fellows, staff, students, visitors, contractors, and members of the public across all College buildings, except those who are exempt from wearing face coverings.

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 and when moving around St John’s 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 will I be required to wear a face covering?

You will be required to wear a face covering in all College buildings and when moving around the site.

This includes:

  • In the Courts
  • 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 
  • In public rooms unless the chair of the meeting indicates that they can be removed
  • When people from separate households are in the same room unless social distancing of two metres can be observed.
Are there any exceptions where face coverings are not required?

There are circumstances where face coverings do not need to be worn. However, if you are in doubt – wear a face covering until you have confirmed that one isn’t required.

In line with University policy, we now recommend that face coverings should be worn for indoor meetings and teaching sessions lasting longer than 15 minutes, even where it is possible to observe the appropriate social distance. This is a College recommendation not a mandatory requirement - the chair of each meeting/supervision will indicate whether face coverings can be removed. If anyone present wishes for them to be worn, all attendees should comply. 

This includes:

  • When you are in your household
  • During supervisions if social distancing is maintained, you will not be required to wear a face covering unless you are asked to by the academic leading the supervision or by anyone else in the supervision
  • In meetings if social distancing is maintained and the chair of the meeting indicates that face coverings can be removed. If any attendee wishes for face coverings to be worn, then all attendees should comply unless exempt.
  • In offices/rooms where social distancing of two metres is maintained
  • By staff working in settings with protective screens in place
  • When eating or drinking provided that social distancing is maintained
  • On The Paddocks
  • In the Fellows’ garden
  • In the Scholars’ garden
  • On the Playing Fields

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 will be displayed prominently around the College. It is important to remember that some people will 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.

Reminders will be circulated about the policy, particularly if there are concerns about compliance.

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.