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Guidance on face coverings

From 00:01 on Thursday 7 January 2021 wearing a face covering will be mandatory on public transport, and strongly recommended when in public places. 

Updated 14 January 2021


What a face covering is

In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.

Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment) which is used in a limited number of settings to protect wearers against hazards and risks, such as surgical masks or respirators used in medical and industrial settings.

Face coverings are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).

If you wish to find out more about the differences between surgical face masks, PPE face masks, and face coverings see the MHRA’s (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) regulatory status of equipment being used to help prevent coronavirus (COVID-19).

See also:

How to select, wear and clean your mask
Face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions and how to make your own

Face visors or shields

A face visor or shield may be worn in addition to a face covering but not instead of one. This is because face visors or shields do not adequately cover the nose and mouth.

When to wear a face covering

There are some places where you must wear a face covering by law, unless you are exempt or have a reasonable excuse.

In the Isle of Man:

  • Wearing a face covering is strongly recommended whenever people are out and about in the Isle of Man. Face coverings can have a real impact on reducing the spread of the virus.
  • It is a condition of carriage for people to wear a face covering on public transport e.g. taxi’s and buses
  • If you are subject to a Direction Notice you must follow what that says, including wearing a face covering.
  • If you exercise as part of modified self isolation in week 2, a face covering must be worn
  • You should also wear a face covering in indoor places where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
  • Face coverings are needed in health and social care settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries. They are also advised to be worn in care homes.

You must wear a face covering when using public transport from 00.01 on Thursday 7 January onwards. It is also strongly recommended that you wear a covering in public places. You do not need to wear a face covering while exercising, however it may be wise to consider this if you are exercising in a public place.

A face covering does not need to be a commercially bought. They can be home-made using cloth, textiles or paper, or you could use a scarf or snood if preferable.

Children aged 11 and over must wear a face covering when using public transport or private taxi services, and it is recommended that they do so when in public. Children under the age of three are not required to wear a face covering.

Educational settings

The Isle of Man Government is also strongly advising secondary age students and school staff who can wear face coverings to do so.

Any students sitting assessments or exams are also advised to wear face coverings and follow social distancing rules.

Strict hygiene measures will be in place when they sit their technical and vocational assessments and BTEC exams.

A small supply of disposable masks is available to those who require them but where possible students and teachers are asked to bring their own.

The UK Department for Education has updated its guidance on the use of face coverings for schools and other education institutions that teach people in year 7 and above in England.

When you do not need to wear a face covering

In settings where face coverings are required in the Isle of Man there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering.

Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances. Some people are less able to wear face coverings, and the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
  • people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
    if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others ‒ including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity
  • police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public

If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering:

  • you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this
  • Some people may choose to wear a Sunflower lanyard

This means that you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering.

However, some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of a sunflower lanyard, badge or even a home-made sign.

Carrying a sunflower lanyard or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.

The reason for using face coverings

Coronavirus (COVID-19) usually spreads by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, if you touch a surface and then your face without washing your hands first. This is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes is so important in controlling the spread of the virus.

The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.

Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others from coronavirus (COVID-19) rather than the wearer, they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing. If you have recent onset of any of the most important symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19):

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia)
  • shortness of breath
  • you and your household must isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this. You should call 111 for advice and possible testing.

How to wear a face covering

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 2 layers of fabric (the World Health Organization recommends 3, 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
  • avoid taking it off and putting it back on a lot in quick succession (for example, when leaving and entering shops on a high street)

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 give it to 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

Face coverings at work

Employers must make sure that the risk assessment for their business addresses the risks of COVID-19, using BEIS guidance to inform decisions and control measures including close proximity working.

It is important to note that coronavirus (COVID-19) needs to be managed through a hierarchy or system of control, including social distancing, high standards of hand hygiene, increased surface cleaning, fixed teams or partnering, and other measures such as using screens or barriers to separate people from each other.

These measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace, but there are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial and a precautionary measure; this will largely be to protect others and not the wearer. Normal policies relating to occupational workwear and PPE will continue to apply.

Where to get face coverings

If you wish to purchase a commercial face covering, there are a number of shops on the Island that are receiving regular stocks of commercial face masks. Among others, major suppliers include:

  • Co-op stores throughout the Island
  • M&S
  • Millets
  • The Works
  • B&Q
  • Agrimark – fully stocked
  • The Creative Shop
  • Dealz
  • Top Banana
  • Bon Fabric - currently making more fabric masks
  • Robinsons
  • Lloyds Pharmacies
  • Karsons Pharmacy Onchan & Kirk Michael

In addition, a number of small businesses are offering handmade face masks.

Instructions for making simple home-made face coverings out of readily available materials can easily be found online. The US Centres for Disease Control has instructions for home-made face coverings as well as the BBC .

Some of the wording on this page has been adapted from guidance on face coverings.