Skip to main content

How and when you could wear a face covering to protect those around you, if you choose to wear one.

First published:
9 June 2020
Last updated:

What is a face covering?

A face covering principally acts to protect others by reducing airborne transmission of COVID-19. It does not protect the wearer from infection from others.

What is a face mask?

Well-fitted medical masks are designed to protect the wearer from infection, and are vital for frontline staff who are at risk from close contact with patients who are, or may be, infected with COVID-19.

What is your policy on face masks and face coverings for the general public?

The evidence remains clear that the most effective way to protect yourself and others from infection is to follow social distancing rules, avoid touching surfaces and your face, and wash your hands regularly.

Face coverings are not a substitute for these measures, but in some circumstances where it might be difficult to stay 2m away from others, we are advising the use of three-layer, non-medical face coverings.

This is in line with the World Health Organisation’s latest technical advice.

Face coverings should be made up of three layers as set out by the World Health Organisation but do not need to be medical-grade face masks.

This advice applies only to people who are not symptomatic. If you experience any of the symptoms of COVID-19, you must self-isolate for seven days and get a test, as set out in existing guidance. Unless your test shows a negative result, you must not go out during this time, even with a face covering.

Why aren’t you making it compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport in Wales?

Social distancing and hygiene measures are by far the most effective ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Public transport providers across Wales have introduced measures to ensure a 2m distance between passengers is possible most of the time, but we realise this is not always possible to maintain.

The clear advice from the WHO and our own Technical Advisory Group is that we should recommend, rather than mandate, the use of three-layer face coverings on worn on public transport.

We have also considered how realistic or fair it would be for public transport workers to enforce a mandatory approach and feel it would not be practical.

What is the science behind this advice?

At the present time, the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community is not supported by high quality scientific evidence. Social distancing and hygiene measures remain the most effective measures for reducing transmission of COVID-19.

The WHO is recommending, though, that as part of the wider range of measures to prevent transmission, three-layer face coverings should be encouraged in situations where social distancing and hygiene measures are difficult to maintain. 

There is evidence to suggest that the wearing of face coverings gives people a false sense of security which makes them less careful about social distancing and handwashing. We know that these measures are the most effective way to reduce transmission of the virus, and don’t want to do anything that might lead to a reduction of those measures being observed.

Read the advice provided to Welsh Government Ministers.

What kind of face covering should people wear?

To provide any protection to others, face coverings need to be made, worn, handled and disposed of in a certain way.

Unfortunately, many of the home made masks being worn offer little protection to the wearer or those around them.

The WHO recommends a minimum of three layers in a face covering.

Share this page