Compulsory face coverings

It’s compulsory to wear a mask or face covering when using public transport and when in shops. Wearing a correctly fitted mask or face covering can help stop the spread of contagion and will help avoid a second lockdown.

Face coverings must also be worn by staff working in retail, all users of taxis and private hire vehicles and staff and customers in indoor hospitality venues - except when seated at tables to eat or drink.

Masks protect others from the air-borne droplets we each exhale with every breath. The virus can live in the air for up to three hours so if we all wear masks, when in busy or indoor spaces, we all protect each other.

Have a look at this helpful video produced by the World Health Organisation on how to use a mask safely:

New government rules mean staff can now refuse to permit access to anyone not wearing a face covering, and the police can issue fines.

It is strongly advised to wear a mask or face covering in all enclosed public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you don’t normally meet.

Please also be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so by a police officer or staff member for the purposes of identification.

Read government guidance about face coverings on the GOV.UK website

  • How to wear a face covering

    Your face covering needs to cover both your nose and mouth. A properly fitted face covering will help protect others from coronavirus.

    If you have the virus without knowing it (as happens in up to 80% of cases), wearing one reduces the risk of passing it on to someone who may be far more seriously affected by it.

    Face coverings do not replace social distancing. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (a new continuous cough, and/or high temperature, and/or loss of/change in smell or taste - anosmia), you and your household must isolate at home. You cannot go outside, even when wearing a face covering.

    After you have removed your face covering you should take it home with you, put it in the wash, and wash your own hands.

  • How to make a face covering from an old t-shirt

    You will need:

    • an old T-shirt that you do not want anymore (ideally size small or extra small)
    • scissors

    Step 1: Cut a straight line across the width of the T-shirt (front and back) approximately 20cm from the bottom of the T-shirt.

    Step 2: From a point 2cm below the top right-hand corner of the fabric, make a 15cm horizontal cut through both sides of the fabric that is parallel to the top of the rectangle.

    Step 3: Cut down towards the bottom of the fabric until you reach approximately 2cm above the bottom edge. From here, make another 15cm cut that runs parallel to the bottom of the fabric to make a rectangle that can be discarded.

    Step 4: To make the ties, cut open the edge of the 2 long strips of fabric. Unfold the main piece of fabric and place over the mouth and the nose. The 4 strips act as ties to hold the cloth face covering in place and should be tied behind the head and around the neck.

  • How to make a sewn cloth face covering

    You will need:

    • two 25cm × 25cm squares of cotton fabric
    • two 20cm pieces of elastic (or string or cloth strips)
    • needle and thread
    • scissors.

    Step 1: Cut out two 25cm × 25cm squares of cotton fabric. Stack the 2 squares on top of each other.

    Step 2: Fold over one side by 0.75cm and hem, then repeat on the opposite side. Make 2 channels by folding the double layer of fabric over 1.5cm along each side and stitching this down.

    Step 3: Run a 20cm length of elastic (or string or cloth strip) through the wider hem on each side of the face covering. These will be the ear loops. Use a large needle to thread it through. Tie the ends tightly.

    If you only have string, you can make the ties longer and tie the covering behind your head.

    Step 4: Gently pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem. Gather the sides of the covering on the elastic and adjust so the covering fits your face. Then securely stitch the elastic in place to keep it from slipping. These elastic loops fit over the ears.

  • Disposing of face coverings and PPE in England

    The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has published guidance for the public and businesses on how to dispose of their personal or business waste, including face coverings and PPE, during the coronavirus pandemic.

    If the public needs to throw away used face coverings or PPE, such as gloves they should: 

    • dispose of them in the ‘black bag’ waste bin at home or at work, or a litter bin if outside
    • not put them in a recycling bin as they cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities
    • take them home if there is no litter bin – do not drop them as litter.

    They do not need to: 

    • put them in an extra bag
    • store them for a time before throwing them away.

    Those running a business or organisation should: 

    • provide extra bins for staff and customers to throw away their face coverings and PPE, and any other additional waste, such as takeaway packaging and disposable tableware
    • make sure that staff and customers do not put face coverings and PPE in a recycling bin as they cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities
    • make sure bins are emptied often so they do not overflow and create litter.

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.

This information is a guide to making a simple face covering. We do not endorse any particular method and other instructions are widely available online. Always take care to use equipment safely to avoid injury. Children should only follow these instructions under the supervision of adults.