Face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE)
Coronavirus spreads between people in tiny droplets when someone with the virus talks, sneezes or coughs. It can stay in the air and on surfaces for a short time.
The best way to protect yourself and stop it from spreading is to:
wash your hands regularly with soap and water use a face covering when you’re not home avoid touching your face follow social distancing guidelines avoid crowded places
Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Bin the tissue and wash your hands as soon as you can, for example with hand sanitiser.
Handwashing and cleaning during coronavirus
You could also wear personal protective equipment (PPE) like a face mask. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that you should not use PPE instead of other safety measures.
Myths about coronavirus (WHO) How face masks stop coronavirus spreading
You can wear a face mask or covering like a scarf or bandana over your nose, mouth and chin. This does not protect you, but people around you.
It takes an average of 5 to 6 days for symptoms to show after you’re infected. During this time, you may not know you have coronavirus.
Wearing a face mask or covering when you’re with people or in public can stop it spreading when you talk, sneeze or cough.
If you have a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss of taste or smell, stay at home for at least:
10 days if you have symptoms 14 days if someone you live with has symptoms Coronavirus health guidelines and risk Face mask rules in England and Wales
In England, you must wear a face mask or covering:
on public transport including the taxi, bus, train, ferry or plane at transport hubs like airports, rail and tram stations and bus stations in a hospital or healthcare setting in shops, supermarkets and shopping centres at post offices, banks, building societies places providing personal care and beauty treatments like hair salons and barbers When to wear a face covering in England (GOV.UK)
You can be refused entry or refused to travel if you do not wear a face mask.
Information about face coverings (GOV.UK)
In Wales, you must wear a face mask or covering on public transport. The government recommends using a face mask or covering where social distancing is not possible.
Face coverings FAQs (gov.wales) Some people do not have to wear a mask
Some people do not have to wear a face mask or covering, including:
children under 11 people with breathing difficulties people with a condition or impairment that makes it hard to communicate or keep a mask in place people travelling with someone who relies on lip reading Print your own exemption cards to use in public (PDF) Exemption cards and badges (GOV.UK) 'Please give me space' social distancing cards and badges (GOV.UK) Buy an exemption card and lanyard (Disability Horizons) Medical face masks
Medical or surgical face masks are thinner and can only be used once. Wear this type of mask if you:
are a health worker have coronavirus symptoms look after someone with confirmed or suspected coronavirus
Or if you cannot social distance and are:
over 60 have other health conditions that make you medically vulnerable
You can buy disposable medical face masks at pharmacies including:
How to wear a medical face mask safely (World Health Organisation video on YouTube) PPE for carers and PAs
If you have a carer or personal assistant (PA), their employer or agency should carry out a risk assessment or create a plan to work safely with you during coronavirus. This should include PPE.
If they have not told you, ask your carer or PA. You can also contact the agency they work for or social services.
If you employ a carer or PA directly or use direct payments, it may be your responsibility to create a plan with them. Ask your local authority for advice.
Find your local authority (GOV.UK) Creating an emergency care plan (Carers UK) Guidance for people who use direct payments (GOV.UK) Providing and paying for PPE
If an agency employs your carer or they’re self-employed, they must provide PPE themselves. You only need to provide PPE if your contract says that you have to.
If you employ your own carer or use direct payments, you must supply them with the PPE they need. Contact your local authority or social services if you cannot find PPE or pay for it from your personal budget.
For personal care, your carer or PA should wear:
disposable gloves a plastic apron a surgical mask possibly a face shield or eye protection PPE for carers delivering homecare (PDF on GOV.UK)
You could also:
open windows before they arrive limit the places they go in your home ask them to clean any surfaces they have touched or clean them yourself after they leave How to keep safe if you use a carer or PA (Disability Horizons)
Last reviewed by Scope on:
Was this page helpful?