The effectiveness of face shields as protection: FOI release

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

Information requested

  • In your guidance on face coverings you state as follows:- 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.

  • Can you please provide me with either the scientific evidence, or publication details of the scientific evidence proving that face shields do not provide adequate protection.


From 8 August face shields are excluded from the definition of a face covering as the emerging scientific evidence and clinical advice is that they do not provide adequate protection against small viral droplets (aerosol transmission) which can escape from the bottom of a face shield and land on surfaces or stay in the air for periods of time.

Face shields provide some protection for the wearer against large droplet exposure including, for example, splashing in a health care setting.

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

I have noted below links to the appropriate information:

  • On 7 July 2020, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) technical lead for infection prevention and control, Professor Benedetta Allegranzi, said there was evidence emerging of airborne transmission of the coronavirus. You read the press briefing transcript here.

  • On 9 July, in light of the WHO’s communications on the risk of airborne transmission, SAGE reviewed its advice and guidance. The paper be found on the SAGE website here.

  • On 22 July, SAGE recommended that guidance is updated to reflect that face shields/visors alone do not provide adequate protection against airborne transmission. The paper can be found on the SAGE website here.

The Scottish Government also completed an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) which allows us to assess how a policy will impact on people.

We completed an EQIA when face shields were excluded from the definition of a face covering. This can be found on website:

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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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