UK’s updated rules on face masks and coverings: What you need to know
Face coverings are mandatory on public transport in England from 15 June.
All hospital staff, outpatients and visitors must also keep their nose and mouth concealed.
As officials gradually ease the UK out of its nationwide lockdown, it is hoped this mandatory measure will help stem the spread of the coronavirus and ward off a dreaded second peak.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends face coverings be worn in public places where maintaining a two metre (6.5ft) social distance is not possible.
It previously claimed there was no evidence a mask or similar fabric barrier wards off a viral respiratory infection, like the coronavirus.
There is evidence, however, people with an airway virus who wear a mask are less likely to pass it on.
According to the WHO, new information suggests coverings may provide “a barrier for potentially infectious droplets”.
The coronavirus mainly spreads face to face via coughs and sneezes.
These may be inhaled or fall onto surfaces, where they could be picked up by a person’s hands.
Those with mild or no symptoms are also thought to be capable of transmitting the coronavirus.
With it being unclear how many patients are asymptomatic, making coverings mandatory may ensure people who feel well are not unwittingly spreading the infection.
Hospital staff are also unable to socially distance from the coronavirus-positive patients they treat.
Being in a confined space with several sufferers may also increase the workers’ viral load, the quantity of virus particles they are exposed to, leading to a more severe infection.
While coverings and masks may be somewhat effective, the WHO has stressed these alone are “insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection and other measures should also be adopted”, like regular hand washing.
Experts have expressed mixed opinions of the benefits of mandatory face coverings.
Dr Antonio Lazzarino from University College London previously said people will continue to touch their face with potentially-contaminated hands.
“Therefore, instead of helping us contain the virus, face coverings may just help the virus spread across the world,” he said.
Professor Trish Greenhalgh from the University of Oxford argued, however, “the science on this is clear: COVID-19 [the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus] is most commonly transmitted by droplets emitted when we cough, sneeze, shout, sing and even just breathe in close proximity to others.
“We can’t stay behind our front doors forever, and nobody wants a second wave of COVID-19, so covering our faces will become the new normal in public places, workplaces and on public transport”.