Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 3: staying safe and protecting others

Published: 7 Aug 2020
Last updated: 7 Aug 2020 - see all updates

Rules on staying safe and protecting others to help suppress the virus.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 3: staying safe and protecting others
Face coverings

Face coverings

Physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene are the most important and effective things we can all do to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The wearing of face coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions.

There is evidence that face coverings have some additional value, especially in crowded and less well ventilated spaces, and where 2m distancing is not possible. 

In indoor places and where physical distancing is difficult and where there is a risk of contact within 2m with people who are not members of your household, you are expected to wear a face covering.

People must by law wear a face covering in shops, on public transport and public transport premises such as railway and bus stations and airports, and in certain other indoor public places.

There is no evidence to suggest there might be a benefit outdoors from wearing a face covering unless in a crowded situation.

What is a face covering?

A face covering can be a covering of any type, except a face shield, that covers the mouth and nose. It is recommended that it be made of cloth or other textiles and should be two, and preferably three layers thick, and through which you can breathe. Religious face coverings that cover the mouth and the nose count as face coverings for these purposes. Transparent face coverings which assist communication for those who rely on lip reading and facial expressions can also be worn.

Face shields may be used, but only if they are worn in addition to a face covering underneath, as the evidence shows that they do not provide adequate protection.

If you are unable to wear a face covering, a face visor or face shield can be worn as it does provide a limited level of protection.

Every time you apply or remove a covering, it is important that you wash or sanitise your hands first and avoid touching your face. When temporarily storing a face covering, such as in a pocket when moving between spaces, it should be placed in a washable bag or container and you should avoid placing it on surfaces, due to the possibility of contamination. After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade or in boiling water, or dispose of it safely

Mandatory face coverings

Certain indoor public places

A face covering must be worn by all people in the settings listed below, except where an exemption applies (as defined in the legislation), or where there is a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a face covering.

  • any premises which open to members of the public and used for the retail sale or hire of goods or services, such as shops, takeaway restaurants, estate agents, beauty parlours. This does not include hospitality premises such as bars and pubs or certain hospitality premises with table service such as cafes and restaurants
  • 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

There are certain indoor public places where a face covering is mandatory in one space and not another, for example in a museum which also has a café. A face covering is mandatory when moving through and around the museum, however it is not mandatory in the café, because of the practical difficulties when people are eating and drinking. 

We advise the use of a face coverings in public and customer toilets as they are often crowded and less ventilated spaces.


A face covering must be worn by all passengers and staff or operators in the following settings:

  • train services including the Glasgow subway
  • bus services and the Edinburgh tram
  • taxi and private hire vehicles
  • bus stations, railway stations (including open air stations) and airports
  • ferry services (unless the ferry is open to the elements and physical distancing can be achieved, or the vessel is large enough that physical distancing can be achieved)
  • airline services

Face covering exemptions

Some people are not required to wear a face covering.

These include:

  • Babies, toddler and children under 5 years of age, due to the possibility of overheating, suffocation and strangulation and they are safe without one. 
  • police constables or emergency response workers such as paramedics acting in the course of their duty 
  • owners, managers, members of staff, or volunteers, of indoor premises where it is mandatory to wear a face covering who are physically separated, by means of, for example, partition screens, from passengers or customers or if they maintain a 2 metre distance from customers or members of the public
  • In a place of worship, or at a funeral, marriage ceremony or civil partnership, by a person leading an act of worship, service, ceremony or registration where there is a partition screen or a distance of 2 metres is maintained 

You may also have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering if, for example:

  • you have a health condition or you are disabled, including hidden disabilities, for example, autism, dementia or a learning disability,  or are providing care for someone with a health condition or disability, and a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety to the wearer or the person in the care of the wearer, or because you cannot apply a covering and wear it in the proper manner safely and consistently
  • Individual discretion should be applied in considering the use of face coverings for other children including, for example, children with breathing difficulties and disabled children who would struggle to wear a face covering
  • to seek medical assistance
  • to avoid injury, illness or escape the risk of harm
  • you need to eat or drink
  • you are taking medication
  • you are communicating with someone else who relies on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate
  • a relevant person, such as a police officer, asks you to remove your face covering

When temporarily removing a face covering you should, where possible, maintain 2 metres distance as physical distancing is one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of the virus and removing your face covering places others at an increased risk.

Those exempt under the guidance and regulations do not have to prove their exemption and should not be made to wear a face covering or denied access to public transport or shops. We ask for people to be aware of the exemptions and to treat each other with kindness.

We will continue to keep this guidance under ongoing review as we move through the phases of the route map out of lockdown.

First published: 7 Aug 2020 Last updated: 7 Aug 2020 -