Face Coverings

The Scottish Government strongly recommend if you are 12 or over, that you continue to wear a face covering in indoor public places and on public transport. This is particularly important in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces and where it is not possible to maintain a safe distance from other people you would not normally meet.

In December 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a guide to wearing face coverings in community settings. link icon. In March 2022, WHO published a Living Guideline. link icon. It is recommended that face coverings are made of cloth or other textiles and should be two, preferably three, layers thick in line with WHO recommendations. link icon.

It may be that some settings will ask that you wear a face covering to access their venue – you should follow their guidance and signage.

Face Covering Exemptions

The Scottish Government strongly recommend the wearing of face coverings on transport, most indoor public places and communal areas in workplaces. Face coverings play a role in preventing the transmission of COVID-19, however, there are reasons you may require a face covering exemption card.

People who are exempt should not be made to wear a face covering or denied access to places where face coverings are required. We ask for people to be aware of the exemptions and to treat each other with kindness, especially when asking why someone is not wearing a face covering.

Below is a list of some reasons a person might be exempt:

Disability and health conditions

  • when a person has a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability (within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010) (which might include hidden disabilities, for example, autism, dementia or a learning disability) which prevents them wearing a face covering. This may include children with breathing difficulties and disabled children who would struggle to wear a face covering
  • you have a health condition where a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety or because you cannot apply a face covering and wear it in the proper manner safely and consistently
  • a person who is providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person and where wearing a face covering would make this more difficult. This also applies if someone needs emergency assistance and they don’t have a face covering with them or there is not time to put one on
  • you can temporarily remove a face covering if you need to take medication, eat or drink

 Respiratory conditions

  • most people with a lung condition will be fine wearing a face covering
  • however, a few people with a lung condition will find that face coverings increase their sensation of breathlessness to the extent they can’t tolerate wearing one
  • for more information on face covering advice for those suffering with lung and respiratory conditions, visit the British Lung Foundation’s website. link icon.

Autism

  • there are various reasons why an autistic person might find face coverings difficult, such as:
    • The feeling it has on their skin
    • A sudden change to their normal routine
    • Not being able to see parts of their or other people’s faces
  • if wearing a face covering causes you or someone you are supporting severe distress or anxiety, then you do not have to wear one
  • if you are autistic and want tips on how to cope with wearing a face covering, read the National Autistic Society Scotland’s factsheet link icon.

Mental health

  • you might feel trapped or claustrophobic, panicked or anxious and be exempt from wearing a face covering for these reasons
  • you might feel severely distressed or anxious if wearing a face covering triggers acute symptoms of a mental health condition, like:
    • panic attacks, flashbacks or other severe anxiety symptoms
    • paranoia or hearing voices
    • dissociating, or switching alters (something that happens to people with dissociative identity disorder)
    • thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • if you are exempt, you still might feel very anxious about being judged, shamed or stigmatised in public. Or about the possibility of being asked to pay a fine. This may feel especially hard to cope with if the reason you can’t wear a face covering is also related to your mental health
  • for more information on how to manage stress and anxiety related to wearing a face covering, follow this link to an article from the mental health charity Mind link icon.

Workplace

  • when a worker or volunteer is in an indoor part of their workplace and they are separated from others, either by a partition or maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre
  • undertaking tasks in the course of their employment, where the wearing of a face covering would cause a material risk of harm

Additional exemptions

  • babies, toddlers and all other children under 12

What doesn’t count

  • not wanting to wear one
  • mild discomfort when wearing one
  • having a health condition or disability which does not prevent you from wearing a face coverings safely, such as well-managed asthma
  • if you are deaf and lip read
  • if they steam up your glasses

Download a card

There is no requirement to obtain written evidence in the form of a letter from a doctor or the government that you are exempt. If you cannot wear a face covering you only need to say that you are exempt from wearing a face covering because of one of the reasons listed above.

Beware of Scammers Selling Overpriced Masks

CTSI has been given information about a series of unwanted and fraudulent calls that are affecting households across the UK.

In the most recent scam, individuals are being contacted and told that they must wear a mask when they go outside. The ultimate goal of these calls is to sell overpriced masks to people who are not aware of the scam.

There are two versions of the call: one where a recorded message plays, and another where a person speaks live. Both types of calls deceive individuals by falsely claiming that wearing a mask is mandatory. The live caller quotes a price of £29 for two masks, two hand gels, and gloves, and asks for the person's address and payment information.

If you get any such calls, use a website like phone number checker to see if it is a scam. Just type in the number you wish to verify and you'll be able to see comments from other users who have reported it. These comments will provide information about the nature of the call.

Katherine Hart, the lead officer for CTSI, expressed her concerns about the increase in suspicious activities and scams during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. She stated that these calls are another example of opportunistic individuals trying to make money dishonestly when people are feeling more vulnerable.

Hart advises the public to be extra cautious of cold calls, especially ones that ask for payment details, in the current climate. She also expressed concern that elderly individuals who are confined to their homes under lockdown may be more susceptible to these opportunists. If someone receives a call like this, she recommends hanging up and, if possible, blocking the number.

Feedback Survey

If you meet the exemption criteria link icon and have requested or downloaded a face covering exemption card, you can take part in our feedback survey.link icon

Disability Hate Crime

If you have received abuse for not wearing a face covering, you can visit the Disability Safety Hub for information on how to recognise and report disability hate crime.

Staying Safe and Protecting Others

All COVID-19 rules and restrictions have been lifted in Scotland, but the virus has not gone away.

You can take action to help protect yourself and keep others safer. Together these actions help reduce the risk and make it safer for everyone.

Lessen the risk by choosing to:

  • get the vaccine link icon or the vaccine booster link icon,  and, where they are prescribed, the new anti-viral treatments – this is the best way to protect yourself
  • meet outside where possible
  • when meeting indoors, open windows to let fresh air in
  • if you can, try and keep some distance from those outside your own household – take a step back
  • where appropriate, wear a face covering in indoor public spaces and on public transport
  • wash your hands regularly, and cover your nose and mouth if coughing or sneezing
  • maintain good surface hygiene by cleaning regularly
  • explore hybrid and flexible working practices where appropriate – organisations and workplaces should follow the safer workplaces and public settings guidance link icon

If you are unwell with COVID-19 symptoms or have a high temperature, you should follow the ‘Stay at Home’ guidance available on NHS Inform. link icon

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