Publication - Advice and guidance
Coronavirus (COVID-19): public use of face coverings
Guidance on the personal use of face coverings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- 11 May 2020
Physical distancing rules mean that you should only leave the house for very limited purposes, for example:
- for basic necessities, such as food and medicine. Trips must be as infrequent as possible
- daily exercise, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household. Exercise can take place outdoors as often as you like, as long as you observe physical distancing rules
- to ensure basic animal welfare needs are met, including taking dogs out when necessary
- any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home
These measures must be followed by everyone.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): staying at home and away from others
- Guidance on physical distancing is available on NHS Inform. This also includes important guidance on hand washing and cough hygiene
- Separate advice is available on NHS Inform for individuals or households who are isolating.
Use of face coverings
Questions have been asked about the use of facial coverings and we address that here.
Physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, are the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Therefore the wearing of facial coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions.
The evidence on the use of face coverings is limited, but there may be some benefit in wearing a facial covering when you leave the house and enter enclosed spaces, especially where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people you do not usually meet. Examples include, traveling on public transport or entering a food shop where it is not always possible to maintain a 2 metre distance from another customer. There is no evidence to suggest there might be a benefit outdoors, unless in an unavoidable crowded situation, where there may be some benefit.
As some people can have the virus but experience no symptoms (asymptomatic infection), wearing a face covering in the situations outlined above may provide some level of protection against transmission to other people in close proximity.
However, it remains the case that anyone with symptoms and all members of their household (whether they have symptoms or not), must self-isolate and adhere to the guidance on individual and household isolation on NHS Inform.
By face coverings we do not mean the wearing of a surgical or other medical grade mask but a facial covering of the mouth and nose, that is made of cloth or other textiles and through which you can breathe, for example a scarf.
When applying or removing the covering, it is important that you wash your hands first and avoid touching your face. After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade or dispose of safely. Face coverings should not be used for children under the age of two years.
We are recommending that you consider using face coverings in the limited circumstances described above as a precautionary measure. Given that the evidence of impact on transmission is relatively weak, the public use of facial coverings is not being made mandatory and will not be enforced at this stage. However, advice on how to travel safely makes clear that, where this is practical, you should wear a face covering when using public transport as a consideration to your fellow passengers and staff.
We will continue to keep this guidance under ongoing review as we consider any easing of lockdown restrictions in the weeks ahead.