In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) can spread predominantly by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, if you touch a surface and then your face without washing your hands first. This is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes is so important in controlling the spread of the virus.
The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.
In settings where face coverings are mandated in England, there are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, whereby people are not expected to wear face coverings in these settings. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings.
There is no requirement for evidence of exemption, it is sufficient for an individual to self-declare this, and there is no requirement for GPs to provide such letters.
You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:
- Young children under the age of 11
- Not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- If you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
- To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
- To avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
- To eat or drink, but only if you need to
- To take medication
- If a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked:
- If asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification
- If speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication
For more information please visit Gov.uk – Face coverings: when to wear one and how to make your own.