New rules around wearing face coverings have come into play from today, Friday 24 July.

Coronavirus can predominantly spread by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. Wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of these droplets, helping to protect others.

From today, therefore, it is mandatory to wear a face covering in shops, supermarkets and on public transport. You can be refused entry if you don’t wear one.

There are some exceptions on wearing face coverings for young children under the age of 11, people with breathing difficulties such as asthma, and people with certain disabilities – so please don’t judge somebody if they aren’t wearing a face covering.

You can use a reusable or single-use face covering. You could also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth coverings, as long as they securely fit around your nose and mouth.

Wearing a face covering

A face covering should:

  • Cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably
  • Fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face
  • Be ideally secured to your head with ties or ear loops
  • Be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton
  • Include at least two layers of fabric

Unless disposable, you should wash your face covering with your laundry and normal detergent. If you are wearing a disposable face covering, make sure you put it in your waste bin, not your recycling, and clean any surfaces your face covering has touched using normal household products.

For a full list of exemptions to wearing a face covering, visit the gov.uk website.  

Face masks vs face coverings

It’s important to remember that a face covering and face mask are two very different things. Face masks can include surgical masks, protective masks (protecting against such things as aerosols in DIY) and PPE masks for healthcare workers.

Face coverings are not classified as PPE and are largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection.

Cabinet member for Public Health, Cllr Maureen McLaughlin, said: “It’s important to follow the new guidance on face coverings and to remember to take one with you if you are leaving home, just in case.

“Wearing a face covering will not necessarily protect you, but it will provide some protection to those around you. It’s also important to recognise that wearing a face covering doesn’t replace the need to social distance or maintain excellent hand hygiene – face coverings are an additional line of defence that will help to stop transmission of the virus.

“Above all, even with this extra precaution, you may still develop coronavirus symptoms and there is currently no 100% guaranteed way to stop contracting the virus. So please remember that if you experience any coronavirus symptoms (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or loss of normal taste or smell), self-isolate immediately and book a test online or call 119.

“By working together and playing our part, we can protect each other – especially our most vulnerable or at-risk communities.”