What you need to know about face coverings

24th July 2020

a woman wearing a face mask. A message says I wear this to protect you

From Friday 24 July face coverings must be worn in shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and transport hubs.

You can buy them. You can make them. But it’s the law, so from now on you’ll need to wear something like a mask, scarf or bandanna that fully covers your nose and mouth in enclosed public spaces.

They’re actually more intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection. It’s because the virus can spread by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. Those droplets can be picked up on surfaces. That’s why social distancing, and regular hand hygiene is so very important. And covering any coughs and sneezes of course with a tissue and disposing of it properly.

And remember it’s really important to keep doing these things as well:

  • Keep your distance, as per social distancing
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly
  • Wear a face covering, that fits over your nose and mouth

That’s because it’s the combination of these three measures that helps stop the spread of coronavirus.

However, if you’re under 11 year old or have certain disabilities or medical conditions such as asthma that mean breathing in a mask is difficult, then you don’t have to wear a face covering. So if you see anyone not wearing one, there may be good reason!

If you are exempt from wearing a face covering, you might feel more comfortable using an exemption card to show that you don’t have to wear one. You can download one to print or save to your smartphone from the government’s website. It’s up to you though, you don’t have to carry one and you shouldn’t be routinely asked to provide any written evidence of your exemption.

When using a face covering, here’s the advice that you should follow:

  • make sure it covers your nose and mouth fully
  • wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on or taking it off
  • avoid touching the front of it or taking it off and putting it back on again a lot in quick succession
  • wash it regularly and store it in a plastic bag in between washing or wearing
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth while wearing it
  • not share your face covering with others.


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