Understanding the guidance on wearing a face covering

With so much information out there, it can become overwhelming to find guidance on how to protect yourself from Coronavirus. In particular, finding the correct advice on whether or not you should be wearing a face covering.

What is a face covering?

A face covering is a piece of material that should cover your mouth and nose. According to the GOV.UK website, face coverings should be worn when social distancing is not possible.

A face covering is different to a face mask. A face mask is a medical grade and certified surgical mask or respirator that is used in clinical settings. They’re also different to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which includes occupational face masks that helps avoid inhaling things like chemicals, dust and spray which are usually found in an industrial environment.

The government advises that these types of PPE should be reserved for those who need to protect themselves in workplaces where they are exposed to such risks.

Should I be wearing a face covering?

The government have said wearing face coverings can be used as a ‘beneficial precautionary measure’. There is no evidence to suggest that wearing a face covering will protect you. That said, it may protect others from you if you are infected but have not developed symptoms.

Taking the correct precautions

If you decide to wear a face covering, you should still be taking the necessary precautions to help avoid the risk of infection and spread. For instance, you should still be minimising the time spent in contact with other people, using fixed teams in the workplace, partnering up for close-up work and increasing hand and surface cleaning.

It’s not a legal requirement to wear a face covering. If you do choose to wear one, it is important to know how to wear one properly and how to take care of it. This includes:

  • washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it
  • when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
  • change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • continue to wash your hands regularly
  • change and wash your face covering daily
  • if the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste
  • continue to practise social distancing wherever possible

Please be aware that if you are due an appointment at one of our treatment centres, we kindly ask you to bring your own face covering to wear at all times whilst on the premises to protect others.

If you are interested in making your own face-coverings at home, follow this guidance on the GOV.UK website here.

(The advice in this article was last updated on the 17/06/2020)