Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings guidance

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 20 Jul 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 about the use of face coverings. Unless you are exempt, you need to wear a face covering:


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 occurring mainly 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 good ventilation in indoor spaces. Physical distancing should still be maintained, alongside good ventilation and respiratory and hand hygiene.

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 (e.g. surfaces).

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.

As restrictions are eased, the emphasis will continue to be on personal responsibility, good practice and informed judgement. Read the latest information on Coronavirus Scotland

We should:

  • wear a face covering
  • avoid crowded places and stay 1 metre away from other people
  • clean hands and surfaces regularly
  • get the vaccine when you are offered it
  • self-isolate and get tested if you have COVID-19
  • download the Protect Scotland app

​​​​​​​Find out more in the following sections: 

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 20 Jul 2021 -