Coronavirus and face coverings

What do you need to know about face coverings? We have brought together the latest guidance and rules around face coverings.

What is a face covering?

A covering of any type that  covers the mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably. You can follow the Government guidance and make face-coverings at home

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.

How to wear a face covering

Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on and after taking it off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store 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.

You should wash a face covering regularly. It can go in with other laundry, using your normal detergent.

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

You should be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so by police officers and staff for the purposes of identification.

Why am I being asked to wear one?

Evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you. However, if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, it may provide some protection for others you come into close contact with.

Face coverings do not replace social distancing. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, and/or high temperature, and/or loss of, or change in, your normal sense of smell or taste - anosmia), you and your household must isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this. You should arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.

When do I need to wear one?

On public transport

From 15 June 2020, it is the law that you must wear a face covering when travelling in England on a: bus, coach, train, tram, ferry, hovercraft (or other vessel), aircraft or cable car. There is further Government guidance on how safe travel for passengers.

If you do not wear a face covering you will be breaking the law and could be fined £100, or £50 if you pay the fine within 14 days.

As a hospital visitor or outpatient

You must wear a face covering when you attend hospital as a visitor or outpatient. Hospitals will be able to provide a face covering in emergencies. Hospital staff may also check your temperature upon your arrival.

Information about Kingston Hospital

Information about West Middlesex Hospital

When social distancing isn't possible

If you can, you should also wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas.

Who is exempt from wearing one?

As a hospital visitor or outpatient

Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 3 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly. For example, primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.

For those travelling on public transport

The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to:

  • a child under the age of 11
  • passengers in an allocated cabin, berth or other similar accommodation, when they are alone or with members of their household or support bubble
  • passengers who remain in their private vehicle while on board public transport, for example on a car ferry
  • an employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
  • any other person providing services to the transport operator, under arrangements made with the transport operator, who is providing those services
  • a constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
  • an emergency responder such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • an official, for example a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties

You also do not need to wear a face covering if you have a good reason not to. This includes:

  • if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • if you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
  • if you need to eat, drink, or take medication you can remove your face covering
  • if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official, for example to check your railcard

Looking for further information about coronavirus?

We have brought together the latest information about coronavirus including how you can get involved and help your community, and how to help your wellbeing during these uncertain times. 

Find out more