Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings guidance

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 9 Aug 2021 - see all updates

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

Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings guidance


Although vaccination is our best protection against COVID-19, no vaccine is 100 percent effective and we know that cases do occur in people who are fully vaccinated.

Scientific evidence and clinical and public health advice is clear that face coverings are an important part of stopping the spread of coronavirus. This guidance provides information to the general public and includes a section on workplaces about the use of face coverings. Unless you are exempt, you need to wear a face covering in most indoor public places and indoor communal workplaces 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 in areas of known transmission and in certain workplaces.

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, sings or even breathes heavily, and droplets and aerosols from their mouth or nose are released into the air. The evidence to date continues to point towards transmission occurring mainly via close contact from symptomatic cases through aerosol transmission. A large proportion of cases are asymptomatic, while the virus can also spread before the onset of symptoms, meaning many people will be unaware that they have been infected.

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 and we advise that these additional measures are still maintained.

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 precautionary measures, personal responsibility, good practice and informed judgement. The latest information on Coronavirus Scotland can be accessed at Coronavirus in Scotland - (Coronavirus in Scotland - (

You should:

When wearing face coverings indoors we should also maintain 1m physical distance. 

Exemptions exist within the regulations for workers or volunteers who can choose to remove their face covering in an indoor part of their workplace if they are separated from others, either by a partition or if they can maintain 2 metres distance. 

Face coverings provide protection to those around the wearer and some protection to the wearer. If a face covering is removed, it is important to maintain 2m distance as a precautionary measure.

Find out more in the following sections: 

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 9 Aug 2021 -