Last reviewed 14 May 2020

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced new advice on face coverings, suggesting the public should consider using them on public transport and in shops to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

The announcement says that, after consideration of the latest scientific evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), official advice is that face coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances.

As a result, the public is now being advised to consider wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces where it is hard to maintain social distancing measures, such as shops, trains, buses, and metro systems, to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

However, the advice emphasises that face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing and regular handwashing which remain the most important actions.

In addition, people are being urged not to buy surgical masks or respirators so they can be saved for frontline health and care workers, and instead make their own face coverings at home.

The advice says that face coverings can help reduce the spread of the disease by those who have the coronavirus but are not showing symptoms. People with coronavirus symptoms, as well as members of their household, should continue to follow the advice to self-isolate.

However, the Government statement said they do not need to be worn outdoors, while exercising or in workplaces such as offices and retail spaces.

The Government recently produced guidance for the workplace which suggests sensible workplace adjustments, including erecting perspex screens, which many supermarkets have already introduced.

The statement says face coverings do not need to be worn in schools. Nor do face coverings need to be worn by those who may find them difficult to wear, such as children under two or primary-aged children and those who cannot use them without assistance, or those who may have problems breathing while wearing a face covering.