Who should wear a face mask or face covering?

For the first time, people in England are being advised to wear face coverings in some enclosed spaces.

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The Scottish government already recommends people wear them when in shops and on public transport.

What is the new advice?

The government for England says:

  • People should aim to wear face coverings on public transport and in some shops
  • Also in other "enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet"
  • "Social distancing" means staying more than two metres away from someone
  • Face coverings should be worn and not surgical masks or respirators which should be left for healthcare staff and other workers who need them

People do not need to wear face coverings where they are:

  • Outdoors or while exercising
  • In schools
  • In workplaces such as offices and shops
  • Children under two or primary aged children who cannot use them without assistance
  • People who have problems breathing while wearing a face covering

Advice in Wales has not changed and face coverings have not yet been recommended for the general public. People in Northern Ireland have been told to consider wearing face coverings if they are in places where they cannot social distance.

Why doesn't everyone wear a mask now?

The advice talks about face coverings, rather than masks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently says only two groups of people should wear protective masks, those who are:

  • sick and showing symptoms
  • caring for people suspected to have coronavirus

It says medical masks should be reserved for healthcare workers.

Masks are not generally recommended for the public because:

  • they can be contaminated by other people's coughs and sneezes, or when putting them on or removing them
  • frequent hand-washing and social distancing are more effective
  • they might offer a false sense of security

But that doesn't mean they have no benefit at all for the general public - it's just that the scientific evidence is weak.

Homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances - they might help stop the spread of coronavirus by people who are contagious but have no symptoms (known as asymptomatic transmission).

Scientists in Singapore suggest that risk is especially high in the 24-48 hours before an infected person is even aware they might have the disease.

Coronavirus is spread by droplets that can spray into the air when those infected talk, cough and sneeze. These can enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth, either directly or after touching a contaminated object.

Learn more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51205344

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