Scientific evidence behind wearing face coverings: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

The scientific evidence behind wearing face coverings outside clinical areas and face covering made from fabric. This should include a summary of clinical tests, where they were undertaken and links to quotes provided by WHO or other bodies to back the claims.


The Scottish Government has always and continues to make decisions based on the available scientific and medical evidence. Regarding face coverings, decisions were based on evidence and advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

The Scottish Government Covid-19 Advisory Group, commonly known as the CMO’s Advisory Group, applies the advice from the SAGE and other appropriate sources of evidence and information and use it to inform local decisions in Scotland.
The decision to make face coverings mandatory on public transport and retail settings was based on this evidence.

I have noted below links to the appropriate information :

  • On 4 June 2020, SAGE discussed mitigation measures which included the use of face covering.
    You can find further information in the meeting minutes which are available on the UK Government website here.
  • The World Health Organisation released update advice on face covering on the 5 June 2020.
    The guidance advised that to prevent Covid-19 transmission effectively in areas of community transmission, governments should encourage the general public to wear face coverings in specific situations and settings as part of comprehensive approach to suppress Covid-19 transmission. You can find a copy of this guidance on the WHO website here. And their recent guidance on children wearing face coverings can be found here.
  • The UK Government released a summary of the relevant SAGE reports for this topic. This can be found on the UK Parliament website here.
  • The Scottish Governments guidance on face coverings, including exemptions, can be found here.

We continue to review our policies on a regular basis in light of the emerging evidence on coronavirus and so we would urge you to continue to use the hyperlinks to find the latest position.

It is important to note that 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.

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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