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Face coverings

Staying 2 metres away from other people, covering any coughs and sneezes and frequent hand cleaning are the best precautions against coronavirus. However, because you may have coronavirus without knowing it, wearing a face covering will help prevent you passing it on to anyone else. You must wear a face covering on public transport and in shops and some other public indoor places, but under 5s should not wear face coverings at all.

If you have coronavirus symptoms, you should of course stay at home and get tested.

What is a face covering?

Face coverings should cover the nose and mouth and can be made from any material you can breathe through and should have at least two layers. For example, you could use a scarf. Religious face coverings that cover the nose and mouth also count. The video here shows you how to make your own.

When should I or my child wear a face covering?

It’s a good idea to wear a face covering in most situations when you need to be indoors and it’s difficult to always stay 2 metres away from other people, for example, at the doctor or if you have a hospital appointment (except if they have a reasonable excuse not to – see question below for more details). However, children under 5 shouldn’t wear face coverings at all. 

To help you understand when you and your child should wear a face covering we’ve pulled together the below information:

Secondary schools (including special schools, independent and grant aided schools)

Adults and pupils in secondary school should wear a face covering in the following areas where it can be difficult to maintain distancing: 

  • when moving about the school in corridors 
  • in communal areas e.g. staff rooms, common rooms    
  • and in toilets 

Face coverings are not generally required in classrooms, however pupils can wear them if they have been advised to or want to. In some situations, teachers and other staff may wear face coverings in classrooms. This is because face coverings should be worn by adults where it’s hard to maintain a 2 metre distance and they are interacting face-to-face for 15 minutes or more with other adults or pupils. 

There may be other situations where face coverings should be used in secondary schools; for example if there is a local outbreak then staff and pupils may be asked to wear them in class. Your child’s school will let you know if this is the case.

If your child is exempt from wearing a face covering, don't worry they do not need to wear one. If you need support or guidance, speak to your child’s school. 
Remember, to tell your child that if they see someone at school not wearing a face covering, they might be exempt from wearing one.  

School transport 

Adults and any children aged 5 and over should wear a face covering if travelling by school transport.

Public transport

If you're travelling by public transport, you must wear a face covering. This means you must wear one:

  • on all train services, including the Glasgow subway
  • on all bus services and the Edinburgh tram
  • in taxis and private hire vehicles 
  • at bus stations, railway stations and airports
  • on ferry services (unless the ferry is open to the elements and physical distancing can be achieved outside, or is large enough that physical distancing can be achieved inside)
  • at airports and on all airline services.

Shops and retail outlets

You must wear a face covering when you go into a shop or retail outlet, including hairdressers, opticians and shopping centres.

Other indoor public places

In addition, you must wear a face covering in the following places:

  • hospitality premises such as bars and pubs and cafés and restaurants except when you're eating or drinking.
  • aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms, and any other indoor tourist, heritage or cultural site
  • banks, building societies and credit unions
  • cinemas
  • community centres
  • crematoriums and funeral directors' premises
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • museums and galleries
  • places of worship
  • post offices
  • storage and distribution facilities, including collection and drop off points
  • bingo halls and casinos
  • bowling alleys
  • amusement arcades and other leisure facilities (such as snooker and pool halls)
  • indoor funfairs
  • indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres
  • indoor skating rinks
  • communal workplace areas.

There are some indoor public places where you must wear a face covering in one space but don't have to in another, for example, in a museum which also has a café. In this case, you must wear a face covering when moving through and around the museum, but don't need to wear one when you're eating or drinking in the café. 

It's also a good idea to wear a face covering in public and customer toilets as they are often crowded and less ventilated spaces.

Who shouldn't wear a face covering?

Children under 5 shouldn’t wear face coverings at all. In addition, you don’t need to wear a face covering if you have a reasonable excuse not to, that is, if: 

  • you have a health condition where a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety (for example, if you have a respiratory condition) or because you can’t apply a covering and wear it in the proper manner safely and consistently
  • you need to eat or drink
  • you need to take medication
  • you need to communicate with someone else who relies on lip reading
  • a relevant person, such as a police officer, asks you to remove your face covering. 

You don't need a letter from your doctor or other proof to show you don't need to wear a face covering.

Should children wear face coverings?

Children aged 5 and over must wear face masks on public transport and in shops. They should also wear them on school transport. Pupils in secondary schools should also wear face coverings in some situations (see question above). 

Children under 5 shouldn’t wear face coverings at all, as it can be dangerous for them. They could cause suffocation, as babies and young children may not be able to remove them if they are having trouble breathing. The ties could also be a strangulation risk. Also, having their faces covered can actually encourage young children to touch their faces more often.

When your child (who is 5 or older) needs to wear one, make sure you help them put it on and take it off properly.

How to wear and look after your face covering

When you and your child are wearing a face covering:

  • wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on, and try not to touch your face
  • when you take it off, try not to touch the part you’ve been breathing on
  • keep the face covering in a plastic bag until you can wash it, then wash it at 60 degrees centigrade. It can go in the wash with other laundry. If you're using a disposable face covering, wrap it in a bag and put it in the bin.
  • make sure the face covering is the right size to cover the nose, mouth and chin. 

Children should be taught how to wear the face covering properly, including not touching the front and not pulling it under the chin or into their mouth.

It’s also important that:

  • you do not share your face covering with others.
  • when temporarily storing a face covering it should be placed in a washable, sealed bag or container. Avoid placing it on surfaces, due to the possibility of contamination.
  • if you're using a disposable face covering, wrap it in a bag and put it in the bin when finished with it.
  • When you have removed your face covering you should, where possible, maintain two metres distance from others. This is because physical distancing is one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of the virus.

You can read more about the use of face coverings here.