Wearing a face covering or face mask can reduce the number of particles containing viruses that are released from the mouth and nose of someone who is infected with COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. Face coverings can also protect the person wearing the face covering from becoming infected by some viruses.
When to wear a face covering
- when you are coming into close contact with someone at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell from COVID-19 or other respiratory infections
- when COVID-19 rates are high and you will be in close contact with other people, such as in crowded and enclosed spaces
- when there are a lot of respiratory viruses circulating, such as in winter, and you will be in close contact with other people in crowded and enclosed spaces
If you have symptoms or have a positive COVID-19 test result and you need to leave your home, wearing a well-fitting face covering or a face mask can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. See further advice in the guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection or a positive test result.
Those attending education or childcare settings will not normally be expected to wear a face covering. Face coverings for children under the age of 3 are not recommended for safety reasons.
What makes a good face covering
Face coverings work best if they are made with multiple layers (at least 2 and preferably 3) and form a good fit around the nose and mouth. A wire nose bridge can improve the fit and may also help to prevent glasses from fogging. Scarves, bandanas, or religious garments are likely to be less effective if they do not fit securely around the mouth and nose, and are of a single layer.
Reusable face coverings should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged. Single-use disposable masks should not be washed or reused and should be disposed of responsibly.