Coronavirus: The Use of Face Coverings

Updated 29th March 2021

Thank you to everyone in our community for working together and protecting each other through maintaining physical distancing, good hand hygiene and staying at home as much as possible.  It has been hard but your commitment to this is appreciated.  Through our collective efforts we have reduced but not eliminated the coronavirus. We need to continue to  work together to stay safe in Frome.


If you have symptoms of coronavirus, stay at home. Do not visit a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. 

When to wear face coverings - changes to the law from 24th July 2020 

The law on wearing face coverings changed on 24th July 2020, as described below. Please remember, whilst you might feel well you could have symptoms of coronavirus without realising it. Wearing a face covering can protect other people from these symptoms.  Facemasks are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.
Please familiarise yourself with the government guidance on wearing face coverings. The following are some of the headlines from the guidance. 


In England, you must wear a face covering by law in the following settings:

  • public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses)
  • taxis and private hire vehicles
  • transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)
  • auction houses
  • premises providing hospitality (bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes), except when seated at a table to eat or drink (see exemptions)
  • post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
  • estate and lettings agents
  • theatres
  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)
  • premises providing veterinary services
  • visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • places of worship
  • funeral service providers (funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels)
  • community centres, youth centres and social clubs
  • exhibition halls and conference centres
  • public areas in hotels and hostels
  • storage and distribution facilities

You are expected to wear a face covering immediately before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave.

You are also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

Face coverings are also needed in NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries. They are advised to be worn in care homes. Individual settings may have their own policies and require you to take other measures.

We continue to ask that our patients and anyone else visiting the Practice here in Frome wears a face covering. 

The Department for Education (DfE) 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.


Exemptions from wearing face coverings 

There are some circumstances where people are not expected to wear face coverings. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings, and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. 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

There are also scenarios where you are permitted to remove a face covering:

  • if asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
  • if asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, for assessing health recommendations (for example by a pharmacist), or for age identification purposes including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
  • if required in order to receive treatment or services, for example when getting a facial
  • in order to take medication
  • if you are delivering a sermon or prayer in a place or worship
  • if you are the persons getting married in a relevant place
  • if you are aged 11 to 18 attending a faith school and having lessons in a place of worship as part of your core curriculum
  • if you are undertaking exercise or an activity and it would negatively impact your ability to do so
  • if you are an elite sports person, professional dancer or referee acting in the course of your employment
  • when seated to eat or drink in a hospitality premise such as a pub, bar, restaurant or cafe. You must put a face covering back on once you finish eating or drinking

Is evidence of exemption needed? 

Those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this. 

Unfortunately we are unable to provide patient with letters explaining they are exempt from wearing a face covering but at no point should you be expected to produce such evidence. 

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 an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

This is a personal choice and is not necessary in law.

If you would like to have something to show you are exempt you can download cards and badges from the government website: 



Why are we asking people to wear face coverings at the practice?

Thank you to all those visiting the practice over the last few weeks who have worn face coverings and continue to do so. Wearing a face covering helps to reduce the spread of coronavirus from anyone who is infected but isn’t yet showing symptoms.

Evidence suggests wearing a face covering does not protect you, but may protect others if you are infected with coronavirus.  

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus (a cough, high temperature and / or loss of taste / smell) then you and your household should isolate at home. Wearing a face covering does not change this.

Coronavirus – or COVID-19 as it is also called – spreads via respiratory droplets between people in close quarters. Droplets fly from our mouths and noses when we breathe, talk or sneeze. Other people can then breathe these in. Face coverings can help stop droplets from leaving your mouth or nose and someone else breathing them in.

Wearing a face covering is a very simple way in which we can we can make a contribution to reducing the spread of coronavirus. This seemingly small action can make a big difference to our local community.

This image illustrates the coronavirus risk we might be exposed to, depending on the circumstances. 

What can I use as a face covering?

Your face covering could be a homemade mask, a scarf or bandana. We would ask that you don’t try and buy surgical masks as it’s important these remain available for frontline NHS and Care staff.


It’s really important you wear your face covering in the right way…..

It is really important to use face coverings correctly. Here's how to do this: 
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
  • 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

I’d like to make my own face coverings or face coverings for other people….

There are many different methods to making a mask that are being shared on the internet. Here are a few suggestions as to where you might like to start if you're thinking about making your own: 

Mask Force Frome - basic facemask instructions

Big Community Sew - links to different ways to make a facemask, including pleated or face shaped masks 

UK Government - how to make a cloth face covering 

You can find numerous other suggested ways to make a mask online. 

Some shops in Frome are also selling reusable cloth face masks.