Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings guidance

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 23 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:


There is scientific evidence that face coverings are effective in reducing the transmission of coronavirus and the World Health Organisation 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, respiratory and hand hygiene and enhanced ventilation in indoor spaces. Maintaining physical distancing needs to be the main mitigation measure and good ventilation does not replace the need for physical distancing or face coverings.

When worn correctly, face coverings can provide protection to those around the wearer from droplet and aerosol transmission and they can also provide some protection to the wearer. They also serve a purpose in source control by reducing contamination to the environment surrounding 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.

FACTS helps us remember the key measures we need to comply with:

  • Face coverings in enclosed spaces
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Clean hands and surfaces regularly
  • Two metre distancing
  • Self-isolate and book a test – if you have symptoms

Physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene are the most important and effective things we can all do to prevent the spread of coronavirus and sticking to the FACTS are more important than ever. Face coverings are not an alternative to any of these other precautions.

Find out more in the following sections: 

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 23 Apr 2021 -