This is the latest guidance on when to wear face masks - and how to put one on properly

The UK government is now advising that people in England should start to wear face coverings in public (Photo: Shutterstock)
The UK government is now advising that people in England should start to wear face coverings in public (Photo: Shutterstock)

Wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus has come under much debate among health professionals, with countries across the world adopting different rules.

But the UK government is now advising that people in England should start to wear face coverings in public.

When should face masks be worn?

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    In a new document published on 11 May, which outlines the government’s plan for bringing the country out of lockdown, it is recommended that face coverings should now be worn in enclosed spaces.

    This includes on public transport and in some shops where maintaining social distancing is not always possible.

    The Prime Minister announced on Sunday (10 May) the government’s lockdown easing measures.

    Included in the advice was that workers who are unable to work from home should return to work if their workplace is open, meaning there will now be increased movement outside of households.

    As a result, the UK government is now advising people to wear a face covering in some public places where they come into contact with others they do not normally meet.

    This advice has already been recommended by governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    Are face masks effective?

    Face coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but rather to protect others against inadvertent transmission of the virus if they are asymptomatic.

    Homemade cloth face coverings can help to reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances, such as being in close proximity to others.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) emphasises that wearing a mask is only effective if it is combined with frequent hand washing with soap and water, and an alcohol-based hand rub.

    What type of face mask should I wear?

    The government guidance differentiates between a face covering and a face mask, with the latter referring to those used in medical settings, such as surgical masks or respirators that are part of the personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

    These supplies should continue to be reserved for those who need it.

    As such, the government is recommending the use of coverings made of cloth or other textiles, such as a scarf, instead of medical-grade masks.

    Face coverings shouldn’t be used by children under the age of two, or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, such as primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.

    How should I wear and dispose of face coverings?

    Government guidance states that a cloth face covering should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably.

    This can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head.

    Before putting it on, you should wash your hands or use hand sanitiser and do the same after removing it.

    Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store any used face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.

    Do not touch the front of the face covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose.

    Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched and wash the covering regularly.

    The covering can be washed with other laundry, using your normal detergent.

    When wearing a face covering, take care to tuck away any loose ends.