These are the rules around whether you can wear a face shield instead of a face mask explained

Are face shields an acceptable alternative to face masks? (Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)Are face shields an acceptable alternative to face masks? (Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)
Are face shields an acceptable alternative to face masks? (Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

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In England, it will be compulsory to wear face coverings in shops from Friday 24 July.

It’s already mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport in England, but from Friday 24 July it will be compulsory to wear them in shops too.

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Some people find wearing masks uncomfortable, so could wearing a face shield be a suitable alternative?

Here’s what you need to know.

Can I wear a face shield instead of a mask?

While the government has emphasised the importance of following the new rules and wearing face coverings in public, there has been no official guidance about whether a face shield or visor can be worn as an alternative to face coverings in England.

The advice from the government states that “people should aim to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops”.

A face covering is defined by the government as “something which safely covers the nose and mouth”.

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Members of the public can wear single use face coverings, reusable face coverings or can opt for a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand made cloth face covering, according to government advice.

In Scotland, the use of face shields instead of cloth face coverings is, however, permitted.

The Scottish government website explains: “You may also use, if you prefer, a face visor but it must cover your nose and mouth completely.”

Do face shields prevent the spread of coronavirus?

There has been mixed attitudes to face shields with regards to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that it is currently unknown whether face shields do very much in the way of protecting others from the spread of respiratory particles.

The CDC states: “The CDC does not recommend the use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings.”

The CDC goes on to say that should someone opt to use a face shield instead of a face covering, then it “should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chin”.

What are the rules regarding face shields in other countries?

The Singapore government website explains that face shields are only permitted in specific circumstances - and outside those circumstances, only face masks are permitted.

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The circumstances and people who are allowed to wear a face shield instead of a face mask include:

  • Children under 12 years old and who have difficulty wearing a face mask for a prolonged period of time
  • People with health conditions that may result in breathing or other medical difficulties when a mask is worn for a prolonged period of time
  • People who are speaking to a group in a classroom or lecture style setting where they largely remain in the same spot and are able to maintain a safe distance from other people

Face shields are also allowed to be worn on top of masks in Singapore.

In Switzerland, face shields are not accepted as adequate protection after a coronavirus outbreak affecting only those wearing plastic visors was reported.

Spokesman Yann Hulmann said that the “visors do not serve as an alternative to hygiene masks. Visors can be worn with masks to further enhance your own protection”.

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Where can I buy face shields?

There are various places online that you can buy a face shield.

You can buy a clear face shield from Screwfix for £5.83, however it is not available for delivery, only click and collect. Stock will depend on your local Screwfix store.

Online retailers like eBay and Amazon also have plenty of face shields to choose from as well, ranging in price.

Since there is no specific guidance from the UK Government on the use of plastic face shields, you should be prepared for shops and public transport to potentially refuse you service or entry.