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Face coverings

Staying 2 metres away from other people, covering any coughs and sneezes and frequent hand washing 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 mask on public transport and in shops and retail outlets, but under 5s should not wear face masks 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. 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 wear a face covering?

It’s a good idea to wear a face covering in 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. 

If you're travelling by public transport or going into a shop, 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
  • when you go into a shop or retail outlet, including hairdressers, opticians and shopping centres. 

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. However, under 5s 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 do I wear and look after my face covering?

When you're 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.

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