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Do I need to wear a face covering to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

From Friday, July 24th 2020 it will be compulsory to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets in England.

This is an extension of the requirement already in place to ensure you cover your nose and mouth at all times when travelling via public transport.

Dr Sinead Clarke, Associate Clinical Director for NHS Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said it is vital that the people of Cheshire support the new rules, but also remain mindful that there are some circumstances where people are exempt.

“Coronavirus (COVID-19) is predominantly spread by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking,” she said. “That is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene and covering coughs and sneezes is so important in controlling the spread of the virus.

“When used correctly a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others. However, people with certain health conditions are exempt – for example those with breathing problems, a learning disability or autism.

“If you are exempt from wearing a face covering, we would advise you to make this clear when visiting shops or travelling via public transport – for example by printing one of these face mask exemption or severe learning disability information cards and carrying it with you when you leave home.

“You do not need a certificate from your GP to prove you are exempt.”

A face covering should:

  • Cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably
  • Fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face
  • Be secured to the head with ties or ear loops
  • Be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton
  • Ideally include at least two layers of fabric (the World Health Organisation recommends three depending on the fabric used)
  • Unless disposable, it should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged

When wearing a face covering you should:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on
  • Avoid wearing on your neck or forehead
  • Avoid touching the part of the face covering in contact with your mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus
  • Change the face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it

When removing a face covering:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before removing
  • Only handle the straps, ties or clips
  • Do not share with someone else to use
  • If single-use, dispose of it carefully in a residual waste bin and do not recycle
  • If reusable, wash it in line with manufacturer’s instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser once removed