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Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings guidance

Published: 30 Oct 2020
Last updated: 6 Apr 2021 - see all updates

Explains where you need to wear a face covering and exemptions from wearing one.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings guidance
Wearing a face covering

Wearing 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 fit snugly while allowing you to breathe easily.

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 on their own.

How to wear and care for your face covering

Face coverings should:

  • be made of cloth or textiles which is two, preferably three, layers thick
  • securely cover your mouth and nose and chin and should fit snugly so that there are no gaps for air to escape out the sides or bottom

You should:

  • wash and reuse your own face coverings rather than using single use face coverings
  • always wash or sanitise your hands before putting on or taking off a face covering and avoid touching your face when wearing one. If you do touch your face covering, wash or sanitise your hands immediately afterwards.
  • replace your face coverings immediately with clean ones if they become wet or dirty
  • wash face coverings after every use - for example after a school day, or a trip to the supermarket. Although a face covering might not look dirty, it could have invisible germs on it.
  • wash face coverings on the highest setting suitable for the fabric, preferably 60°C if using a washing machine
  • hand wash your face covering using detergent and warm to hot water and then iron it once dry to make sure all the germs are killed if you do not have a washing machine

If you need to store your face covering, for example in your pocket, try to use a washable bag or container so that you keep it as clean as possible.

Do not put your face covering down on surfaces as invisible germs could contaminate it.

Transparent face coverings are also available and they should be cleaned after every use. Follow the washing instructions provided with the product.

Where to wear a face covering

We have made face coverings mandatory in most indoor public places, indoor communal spaces including retail, restaurants, cafes, bars and public houses, and in workplaces and on public transport. This is because transmission is most likely to occur when people are close to each other, in crowded and poorly ventilated places. Schedule 7 of the Regulations provides more information about the relevant provisions.

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 6 Apr 2021 -