Use of face masks in the community
There is very little evidence of widespread benefit from the use of face masks outside of the clinical or care settings, where they play a very important role.
To be effective, face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour.
Research shows that compliance with these recommended behaviours reduces over time when wearing face masks for prolonged periods, such as in the community.
Therefore, PHE does not advise masks in public places and for those working in supermarkets, waste collection, schools and similar settings.
PHE recommends that employers should ensure that:
spaces in the workplace are optimised to allow social distancing to occur, wherever possible
signs are visible in the workplace reminding employees not to attend work if they have a fever or cough and to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
employees are provided with hand sanitiser for frequent use and regular breaks to allow them to wash their hands for 20 seconds
The UK does not currently advise use of face masks outside of care settings, in line with PPE guidance.
PHE will continually review guidance in line with emerging evidence and WHO views, and update our guidance if new evidence suggests that we should do so.