Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 22 Jul 2020
Last updated: 31 Jul 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

In enclosed spaces, where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people who are not members of your household, you should wear a face covering.

People must by law wear a face covering in shops and on public transport and public transport premises such as railway and bus stations and airports. This applies to open-air railway platforms, but not to bus stops.

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

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.

What is a face covering?

A face covering can be any covering of the mouth and nose that is made of cloth or other textiles and through which you can breathe.

Religious face coverings that cover the mouth and the nose count as face coverings for these purposes.

You may also use, if you prefer, a face visor but it must cover your nose and mouth completely.

When applying or removing the covering, it is important that you wash/sanitise your hands first and avoid touching your face.

After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade or dispose of it safely.

Mandatory face coverings


A face covering must be worn by all people in a shop, except where an exemption or ‘reasonable excuse,’ as defined in the legislation, applies when the shop is open to the public.

A shop is any indoor establishment which offers goods or services for sale or hire. This includes anywhere that offer some goods for hire, for example if a library offers DVDs or CDs for hire.

This does not include hospitality premises such as cafes, coffee shops, restaurants or pubs. It also excludes money services businesses such as banks and building societies.

The law exempts staff in a shop from wearing a face covering where they are able to maintain 2m physical distancing from members of the public, or perspex screens are in place. However, even where staff maintain 2m physical distancing, and are not legally obliged to wear a face covering, it is strongly recommended that a face covering is worn.


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:

  • children under 5 years of age
  • police constables or workers such as paramedics acting in the course of their duty 
  • staff such as drivers or checkout assistants who are physically separated, by means of, for example, screens, from passengers or customers
  • shop workers if they maintain a 2 metre distance from customers or members of the public

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 and a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety 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
  • you need to eat or drink
  • you are taking medication
  • you are communicating with someone else who relies on lip reading
  • a relevant person, such as a police officer, asks you to remove your face covering

First published: 22 Jul 2020 Last updated: 31 Jul 2020 -