16 July 2020
Lady wearing a facemask

Face coverings should be worn in shops and supermarkets in England from Friday 24 July.

Face coverings are already mandatory in healthcare settings, GP surgeries, hospitals and on public transport. They are also recommended when sharing cars with those outside of your household, and when you find yourself unable to maintain a 2 metre distance indoors with others from outside your household.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spread by droplets from coughs, sneezes and through speaking, shouting or singing. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, particularly if you touch a surface and then touch your face. This is why wearing a face covering is so important in controlling the spread of the virus.

When used correctly, face coverings may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances. Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others from coronavirus (COVID-19) they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing. However, if everyone within a setting wears a face covering, everyone is more protected, including yourself.

To be effective, face coverings should:

  • cover your both your nose and mouth
  • fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face
  • be secured to the head with ties or ear loops
  • include at least two layers of fabric, ideally three
  • unless disposable, it 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

Users should heed the following guidance when putting on and taking off face coverings:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on and before removing a face covering
  • avoid wearing face coverings on your neck or forehead
  • avoid touching the part of the face covering in contact with your mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus
  • change the face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • only handle the straps, ties or clips
  • do not share with anyone else
  • if single-use, dispose of it carefully in a residual waste bin and do not recycle
  • if reusable, wash it in line with manufacturer’s instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser once removed

Rida Elkheir, Consultant in Public Health at Northamptonshire County Council added: "We have said many times now that everyone has a role to play in reducing the spread of the virus. This latest guidance should ensure that community related transmission of the virus is further reduced.

"When the virus first arrived, one of our key messages was to wash hands thoroughly and regularly and this message remains as important today as it was then. Alongside social distancing and the use of face coverings, these measures are essential in reducing transmission rates."

Anyone experiencing coronavirus symptoms (high temperature, continuous cough or loss of or change in sense of smell or taste) should immediately self-isolate with their household and visit nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 to find out how they can get tested.

Those who test positive for COVID-19 will be helped by the NHS test and trace service to identify the people they’ve recently been in contact with so they can be alerted.
People who have had close recent contact with someone with coronavirus must then self-isolate for 14 days, if they are advised to do so by the NHS test and trace service, to help contain the spread of infection. ​