Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings guidance

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 6 Apr 2021 - see all updates

Explains where you need to wear a face covering and exemptions from wearing one.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings guidance


Face coverings are an important part of stopping the spread of coronavirus. This guidance provides information to the general public and employers about the use of face coverings.

You need to wear a face covering even if you have been vaccinated.


There is scientific evidence that face coverings are effective in reducing the transmission of coronavirus and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends their use in the community and in certain workplaces.

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The evidence to date continues to point towards transmission mainly occurring via contact from symptomatic cases.

This can occur through:

  • respiratory droplets
  • by direct contact with infected persons
  • by contact via contaminated objects and surfaces

Face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing. Maintaining physical distancing needs to be the main mitigation measure and good ventilation does not replace the need for physical distancing of face coverings.

When worn correctly, face coverings can provide protection to the wearer from and to those around the wearer.

This is especially important if the wearer is asymptomatic (they have the virus and do not have any symptoms) or pre-symptomatic (they have the virus but have not yet developed symptoms).

Face coverings remain an important public health mitigation even as the vaccine is rolled out, as we are yet to understand how effective the vaccines are at preventing transmission of current and new variants.

Find out more in the following sections: 

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 6 Apr 2021 -