Nottinghamshire business supports production of masks for public

A Department for International Trade 'Export Champion' have refocused their efforts to supply face coverings to the UK public, in response to the outbreak.

  • Export Champion creates new line of face coverings as part of coronavirus (COVID-19) response
  • Company donates £1 for each face covering bought to local NHS trust

A Department for International Trade (DIT) ‘Export Champion’ is leading the way in supplying face coverings to its local area and beyond, in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Source Control Masks is the trading name of Mansfield-based industrial supplies business Hall-Fast. The business normally exports to over 100 countries including Nigeria and Poland. However, in light of the outbreak, it has refocused efforts to support and increase UK supplies of face coverings for the British public.

The Department for Health and Social Care published guidance on 11 May 2020 to advise the public to consider wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces such as shops, trains and buses to help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

With the assistance of DIT advisers, the business is working to secure thousands of face coverings from Asia. The company has sold over 8,000 so far and has said its aim is to keep the UK public safe whilst ensuring medical PPE is reserved for healthcare workers.

The business is donating £1 for every face covering sold online to the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, their local NHS trust, and has raised £2160 so far.

Hall-Fast previously donated excess PPE stock to the value of £2,000 to their local NHS back in March as lockdown restrictions began.

The company has a long-standing relationship with DIT, becoming an ‘Export Champion’ when DIT first set up a base in the East Midlands.

Managing Director of Hall-Fast, Malcom Hall MBE:

After the lockdown was imposed in March, I began importing face coverings for purchase. I did this so as to encourage customers not to buy the medical facemasks that ought to be reserved for healthcare workers.

It’s important that we support our NHS by ensuring they have the equipment they need while protecting each other and ourselves.

DIT have been a great help to Hall-Fast and we have a long-standing relationship with the department as it existed in its previous forms. I have received continued support from International Trade Advisors both before and during the pandemic and have benefitted from the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

With no current cure to COVID-19, I want to help keep British people safe and provide the right type of equipment for people as lockdown restrictions ease.

Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart MP:

Hall-Fast is a great example of a UK business taking the initiative during this pandemic as well as supporting their local NHS and the British public.

It’s imperative we continue to keep international trade lines open and running, as working together is the only way we will be able to move past the pandemic.

Importing PPE is an important part of the UK’s response to COVID-19, and my department is doing all it can to support this.

I commend Hall-Fast for their innovative approach and ability to adapt to need. In doing so they support us all, not least the local community in Mansfield.

Coronavirus: Making face masks compulsory in public would stop second wave, says study

Requiring everyone to wear a face mask in public, combined with on/off lockdowns would prevent a second wave of coronavirus for 18 months, according to new research.

The modelling study from the universities of Cambridge and Greenwich suggested that this would create the time gap needed to find a vaccine or effective treatment by keeping the COVID-19 reproduction number (R rate) below 1.0, something not possible with lockdowns alone.

Researchers concluded that even homemade masks with limited effectiveness could dramatically reduce transmission rates if worn by enough people, regardless of whether they show symptoms.

Lead author, Dr Richard Stutt, part of a team that usually models the spread of crop diseases at Cambridge's department of plant sciences, said: "Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public.

"If widespread face mask use by the public is combined with physical distancing and some lockdown, it may offer an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and re-opening economic activity long before there is a working vaccine."


In the study, population-level models were combined with different levels of mask adoption and varying periods of lockdown.

The negative aspects of mask use, such as increased face touching, were also considered.

Mansfield firm starts supplying non-medical face masks for when lockdown eases - and donates cash to NHS from sales

A Mansfield-based supply firm has turned its attention to providing face masks for the public as further restrictions on the coronavirus lockdown are eased.

Hall-Fast, an industrial supplies firm based out of Anglia Way, has set up its 'Source Control Masks' scheme in a bid to buy thousands of face coverings for the public.

It comes as the government outlined plans for everybody using public transport to wear a face covering, while guidance released in May also outlines advice on wearing makes in shops.

The Mansfield-based firm, which is selling face coverings from its website, is buying in the coverings from Asia in a bid to ensure medical masks are reserved for healthcare staff.

Malcolm Hall MBE, managing director of the company, says the firm wants to ensure people wear the "right type of equipment" as the lockdown is lifted.

"With no current cure to Covid-19, I want to help keep British people safe and provide the right type of equipment for people as lockdown restrictions ease", he said.

“After the lockdown was imposed in March, I began importing face coverings for purchase.

"I did this to encourage customers not to buy the medical face masks that ought to be reserved for healthcare workers.

“It’s important that we support our NHS by ensuring they have the equipment they need while protecting each other and ourselves."

As part of the scheme, the firm has said it will donate £1 from every sale towards Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs King's Mill and Newark Hospitals, to support the trust through the pandemic.

So far, more than £2,000 has already been raised.

The company has been working with the Department for International Trade to source the masks from Asia.

Graham Stuart, minister for exports in the department, praised the company for its "initiative" during the pandemic.

“Hall-Fast is a great example of a UK business taking the initiative during this pandemic as well as supporting their local NHS and the British public", he said.

“It’s imperative we continue to keep international trade lines open and running, as working together is the only way we will be able to move past the pandemic.

“Importing PPE is an important part of the UK’s response to Covid-19, and my department is doing all it can to support this.

“I commend Hall-Fast for their innovative approach and ability to adapt to need. In doing so they support us all, not least the local community in Mansfield."

Coronavirus: WHO advises to wear masks in public areas

The World Health Organization (WHO) has changed its advice on face masks, saying they should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The global body said new information showed they could provide "a barrier for potentially infectious droplets".

Some countries already recommend or mandate face coverings in public.

The WHO had previously argued there was not enough evidence to say that healthy people should wear masks.

However, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that "in light of evolving evidence, the WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments".

The organisation had always advised that medical face masks should be worn by people who are sick and by those caring for them.

Globally, there have been 6.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 400,000 deaths since the outbreak began late last year, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

What is the WHO's advice?

The organisation said its new guidance had been prompted by studies over recent weeks.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead expert on Covid-19, told Reuters news agency the recommendation was for people to wear a "fabric mask - that is, a non-medical mask".

Fabric masks should consist of "at least three layers of different material" in order to be effective, the WHO says.

However, those aged over-60 and with underlying health risks should wear medical masks in areas where there is community transmission.

At the same time, the WHO stressed that face masks were just one of a range of tools that could be used to reduce the risk of transmission - and that they should not give people a false sense of protection.

"Masks on their own will not protect you from Covid-19," Dr Tedros said.

Coronavirus: Matt Hancock announces all hospital visitors, patients and staff must now wear face coverings

All hospital staff are to now wear surgical masks ‘at all times’ while visitors and outpatients should wear non-medical face coverings

Mr Hancock announced new rules on face coverings in hospitals that will require all hospital staff to wear surgical masks “at all times”, and for visitors and outpatients to wear non-medical face coverings which are “easy to make at home”.

The Health Secretary told the Downing Street briefing: “As the NHS reopens right across the country, it’s critically important to stop the spread amongst staff, patients and visitors too. Today, we’re setting out that all hospital visitors and outpatients will need to wear face coverings.”

The news comes one day after the Government said face coverings would become compulsory on public transport in England – with passengers warned they could be barred from using buses, trains, aircraft and ferries if they do not have a mask.


Staff must wear masks ‘at all times’


Mr Hancock continued: “One of the things we’ve learned is that those who are working in hospital, are more likely to catch coronavirus whether they work in a clinical setting or not.

“To offer even greater protection, we are providing new guidance for NHS staff in England, which will come into force on 15 June, and all hospital staff will be required to wear surgical masks.

“This will cover all staff working in hospital, and it will apply at all times, not just when they are doing life saving work on the frontline. It will apply in all areas except those areas designated as Covid-secure workplaces.

“Of course, where the PPE guidance recommends more stringent protection, that remains in place. We’re upgrading this guidance to make sure that even as this virus comes under control, our hospitals are a place of care and safety.”

Asked whether tea breaks would be permitted under the rules, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson clarified to i that staff “can remove masks to eat and drink” but should try and maintain social distancing.

The UK has been relatively slow to recommend the use of face coverings in public, with France announcing in April that face masks would become compulsory on public transport.

The UK Government has maintained previously that their use has only a “marginal” benefit, though Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been calling for their use for weeks.

‘Determination’ to deal with virus

Friday saw the official Covid-19 death toll in the UK pass 40,000 – though the true number of deaths is likely to be higher.

The Health Secretary told the Downing Street briefing: “I think the day that the number of deaths from coronavirus has gone over 40,000 is a time of sorrow for us all.

“We’ve got to remember that each one of these is an impact on a family that will never be the same again and my heart goes out to them all.

“And it makes me redouble my determination to deal with this virus and to get that incidence right down and the way you get the incidence down is… to keep the R below one.”

Coronavirus: Can face coverings really protect you?

With it set to become compulsory to wear them on public transport, we look at whether they are effective against COVID-19.

Face coverings have become a common sight in the UK as people try to stop the spread of coronavirus - but there is a debate about how effective they are.

The government has announced that from 15 June, it will be mandatory to wear them on public transport in England as the COVID-19 lockdown continues to be eased.

While wearing a face covering does not protect the wearer, it may protect others if people are infected but have not yet developed symptoms of the coronavirus.

People are also being told to wear them in enclosed spaces, which also includes some shops.

However, people are not being told to wear them outdoors, while exercising, in schools or at offices.


A face covering can be a scarf, piece of cloth or a mask.

Some airlines, including easyJet and Ryanair, have introduced a requirement for passengers to wear face masks.

But according to official advice, surgical masks should be reserved for people who need them for protection while at work.

You can make coverings at home, but "the key thing is it should cover your mouth and nose".

The evidence of coverings preventing the spread of infection from one person to another is "marginal but positive", according to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies that is advising the government.

An international report, published in The Lancet which analysed data from 172 studies in 16 countries, found that by wearing a face mask there is just a 3% chance of catching COVID-19.

Another study found that homemade face masks can help limit the spread of the coronavirus - but they do have downsides.

Seven types of face masks were put to the test by the University of Edinburgh, including surgical masks, respirators, lightweight and heavy-duty face shields, and handmade masks.

Aside from those with a valve, all of the face coverings were found to reduce the forward distance travelled by an exhaled breath by at least 90%.

The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, has stressed that there is no evidence that wearing one - whether medical or other types - by healthy persons in the wider community can prevent them from infection with respiratory viruses, including the coronavirus.

Fears have also been raised that they could give people a false sense of security and mean they are less observant of the rules around social distancing and hand hygiene.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps says face coverings will be mandatory on public transport from 15 June

Key points:

  • Face coverings to be mandatory on public transport in England from 15 June
  • People can be refused travel and fined if they do not comply
  • Transport Secretary Grant Shapps makes announcement at latest coronavirus briefing
  • Number 10: Prime minister may have to self-isolate if business secretary tests positive for COVID-19
  • Top scientists cast doubt on government's quarantine plans
  • Airlines among businesses given Bank of England bailouts
  • Live reporting by Alan McGuinness, political reporter

See More:

Coronavirus: EasyJet to resume flights next month with strict face mask rule

EasyJet says it plans to resume a small number of flights next month with strict safety protocols for passengers and crew alike.

Top of the measures, the no-frills carrier said, would be the wearing of face masks for all those aboard its aircraft.

The company said it would likely operate domestic flights within the UK and France from 15 June with the only international service being Gatwick to Nice initially.

The UK airports to see the limited domestic services return will be Bristol, Birmingham, Gatwick, Liverpool, Newcastle,
Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Belfast, easyJet added.

Shares were more than 2.5% up in early trading after a plunge of 60% in the year to date.

The airline made its announcement as it faces a series of headaches away from flight operations - largely grounded by COIVID-19 since March.

It revealed on Tuesday a hacking of its digital systems that exposed personal details of nine million customers.

The easyJet chief executive and chairman are also facing a fight for their futures as the airline's founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, bids to have them removed from their posts in a shareholder vote due on Friday.

Easyjet has furloughed thousands of staff and borrowed £600m under a government-backed financing scheme as it seeks to shield itself from the effects of the coronavirus crisis that has hit the industry hard, with BA, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic collectively planning 18,000 job losses.

It said that the cautious commencement of flights would only go ahead with a series of measures agreed with regulators and in-line with the advice of national governments.

These steps include:

:: Customers, cabin and ground crew will be required to wear masks

:: Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of easyJet aircraft

:: Availability of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitiser onboard

EasyJet said there would be no onboard food service.

The Luton-based airline looks set to be the second operator to resume flights after Wizz Air restarted services from the town's airport earlier this month.

BA and Ryanair are targeting July.

Johan Lundgren, the easyJet chief executive, said of its plans: "These are small and carefully planned steps that we are taking to gradually resume operations.

"We will continue to closely monitor the situation across Europe so that when more restrictions are lifted the schedule will continue to build over time to match demand, while also ensuring we are operating efficiently and on routes that our customers want."

Coronavirus: Homemade masks and scarves can limit spread of COVID-19, study says, but there are downsides

The UK governments advice is to wear face coverings or masks when in busy places such as on public transport, in shops or at where social distancing cannot be adhered to

 Do not wear a face mask that is meant to be worn by a healthcare worker

We have 18,000 black face masks in stock and colours can be pre-ordered online now for delivery at the end of May

 £5 is donated to the NHS with every pack ordered online and delivery is FREE to most UK mainland postcodes

 #SourceControlMasks #FaceCoverings #SCM #InThisTogether

Coronavirus: Cover faces in some public areas, people in England told


People in England should now aim to wear face coverings on public transport and in some shops, the UK government has said.

A document outlining new coronavirus lockdown rules suggests face coverings for enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible.

That advice had already been recommended by the governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

People are also allowed to meet one person from another household outside.

It comes as Boris Johnson announced on Sunday a "conditional plan" to begin lifting England's coronavirus lockdown.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own powers over the lockdown and have not lifted measures to the same extent.

In an address to the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Johnson said the "roadmap" for lifting the lockdown would enable the country to "control" the disease if people continue to follow the rules.

He said the public should exercise "good, solid, British common sense" in adapting their lives to the next phase of the coronavirus response.

The PM will later lead the government's daily Downing Street press briefing which, due to the Commons statement, has been moved to 19:00 BST.

The government published a 50-page document on Monday afternoon, alongside new guidance for the public, setting out more details of its planned timetable for lifting Covid-19 restrictions.

"As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people's immediate household," the guidance says.

"This increased mobility means the government is now advising 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 that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops."

The new guidance makes clear that a face covering is not the same as face masks, such as those worn by healthcare workers which "must continue to be reserved for those who need it".

Other countries have already introduced rules about wearing face masks, however advice in Wales remains unchanged and is not recommended.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he would not consider making it mandatory to wear face coverings in Wales "as the evidence is not strong enough for that", but people could choose to wear them if they wished.

As we gradually move out of lockdown, we are going to have to accept we are living with more risk than we once were.

There is, after all, a virus circulating - that is infectious and can be deadly.

The government is taking steps to try to minimise that risk (and of course there is plenty of debate whether it is doing a good job) as well as asking us to play our part by following the guidance, not just for the sake of our own health but also the health of others.

But how high is the individual risk? What's become clear since coronavirus emerged is that the most at risk are those with vulnerabilities.

Latest data suggests 5% of deaths in hospital in England involve people with no underlying health condition.

Factor in the care home deaths, which are accounting for growing numbers of fatalities, and the overall proportion will be even lower.

That is why the government is asking those with health conditions to be more stringent, including for some, continued isolation, which is incredibly tough to do.

But for the "healthy population" the risk of dying is very low. A recent international study concluded deaths among under-65s without pre-existing health conditions were "remarkably uncommon".

The younger you are, the lower the risk. But it is not zero - and that too can be difficult to live with when we are so aware of it.

From Wednesday, people in England will also be allowed to meet one person from outside their household as long as they stay outdoors and stay 2m apart, the advice says.

Sage, the government's group of scientific advisers, says the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside, according to the document.

As the prime minister set out on Sunday evening, the guidance also sets out the government's three-step plan.

  • In step one, from Wednesday 13 May, workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. The government is also urging more vulnerable children to attend school if they are able to
  • In step two, no earlier than 1 June, nurseries and primary schools will begin a phased return beginning with early years, reception, and years one and six. Some businesses will be able to reopen and sporting events will be able to take place behind closed doors
  • In step three, no earlier than 4 July, more businesses will be able to open - although some, which are crowded by design, will not be able to open. The aim is to reopen businesses such as hairdressers and beauty salons

Coronavirus lockdown: UK 'past the peak' but public will be told to wear face masks to protect those going back to work, Boris Johnson says


Masks will give people 'confidence' to go back to work, says PM, as Britain is 'past the peak' of Covid-19 epidemic

The Government will recommend that people wear face masks as part of plans for Britain to leave lockdown in order to protect those going back to work, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

He also declared that the UK was past the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak as he vowed to set out a “roadmap” next week to “get our economy moving”.

The Prime Minister, holding his first Downing Street press conference since contracting the disease himself, said the plan would include measures to reopen schools, make transport ready to use and make workplaces safer.

But Mr Johnson revealed that they could also include the wearing of face masks among the general public to give them “confidence” to go back to work and help with disease control.

Face masks plan

Ministers had previously raised concerns that there was not sufficient evidence that face masks significantly stopped the spread of Covid-19, and that recommending the public wear them might result in shortages of medical face coverings for NHS staff.

He said: “What I think Sage is saying, and what I certainly agree with is that as part of coming out of the lockdown, I do think that face coverings will be useful both for epidemiological reasons but also for giving people confidence they can go back to work.

“But you’ll be hearing more about that thing next week.”

Mr Johnson added it was possible to “now see the daylight” after weeks of draconian restrictions on movement, but stressed the country must avoid the “disaster” of a second peak of infections, as he suggested many measures will be in place until at least June.

Alpine tunnels

His comments came after he revealed that 26,711 peoiple had now died from Covid-19, an increase of 674 on the day before.

The Prime Minister said any decision on when the Government would start lifting restrictions on schools, travel and working would depend on the rate of infection - known as the R value number - being below R1.

According to the Government’s scientific advisers the infection rate in the UK was somewhere between R0.6 and 0.9, but they warned any rise above R1 would risk an exponential increase in infections and cause the country to “run slap into a second and even bigger mountain”, Mr Johnson said.

Asked what R number the experts would be happy with for life to start easing restrictions, the Government's chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, refused to put an exact number on it, but added: "We are absolutely confident that the wrong answer is anything over one."

Loosening restrictions

The Prime Minister said more information about loosening restrictions would be set out in the coming days. “Next week you will get a road map, a menu of options and dates. The timing of each individual measure will depend on where we are in the epidemic,” he said.

Despite Mr Johnson’s optimistic language of easing the lockdown, it is clear that large areas of the lockdown will continue with his official spokesman stating earlier in the day they would stay in for a “long period of time”.

Mr Johnson also stated he was “very, very lucky” to come through his infection of Covid-19, which saw him requiring intensive care.

“I had wonderful carers, wonderful treatment, and, let’s be frank, tragically, thousands of people have been less fortunate than I was,” he added.

The new rules — Likely distancing measures

Coronavirus masks: Boris Johnson signals U-turn over 'useful' face coverings


Boris Johnson has said face coverings will be "useful" when lockdown restrictions are eased to "give people confidence they can go back to work".

It comes two days after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was only weak science supporting advice from the Scottish government that people should wear face coverings in shops and on public transport.

"I do think face coverings will be useful," the prime minister said during the government's daily briefing on the COVID-19 crisis.

"What I think Sage [the government's scientific advisory group] is saying, what I certainly agree with, is that as part of coming out of the lockdown, I do think face coverings will be useful.

"Both for epidemiological reasons but, also, for giving people confidence that they can go back to work.

"You're going to be hearing more about that and that kind of thing next week."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that cloth coverings should be used when social distancing was hard to maintain.

But asked later that day whether the recommendation was likely to be adopted across the UK, Mr Hancock said the government's position had not changed and that there was "weak science" supporting the advice.

And the PM's latest statement also appeared to contradict Professor Angela McLean's comments at Tuesday's daily coronavirus briefing.

She had said Sage found there was "weak evidence of a small effect in which a face mask can prevent a source of infection going from somebody who is infected to the people around them".

"The answer is clear that the evidence is weak and the effect is small, and we have passed that on to our colleagues in government with which to make a decision," she said.

The apparent divisions around face coverings within Sage would appear to reflect those among scientists generally.

While some praised Scotland's decision to advise people wear them while shopping and on public transport, describing it as a no-brainer, others suggested the decision was political and not supported by evidence.

And Sky News' poltical editor Beth Rigby said both the government's change of position and the PM's use of the word "confidence" was significant.

"It's a big change in position from the prime minister to what other ministers have said," he said.

"Indeed, Matt Hancock said, only earlier this week, there was weak evidence for the usefulness of face masks. The prime minister completely changed position on that when asked.

"Confidence is actually a really critical thing here. We've been talking a lot about ending the lockdown, but when you look at the public mood, people are very happy with the lockdown, they're comfortable with it, they understand it, now they feel safe.

"The government have to give people confidence to go outside again, to begin to resume a new normal way of life and maybe face masks is part of that strategy."

Source Control Masks Ltd Launched With Donations to NHS with Every Sale!



Source Control Masks Ltd has been launched today as a trading name of Hall-Fast Industrial Supplies Limited


On launch the Mansfield based firm has announced that they intend to promote clear messages on the use of masks whilst also raising much needed money for the NHS by donating £5 for every pack of five masks purchased online


The Original Source Control Mask is a reusable and washable mask, it is not a PPE mask that is meant for healthcare workers and the message is ‘My mask protects you and your mask protects me’ an initial 25,000 black Source Control Masks are on order and will be available to despatch to customers around the 10th May, pre-orders can be placed online now to reserve stock for you and your family.


Malcolm Hall – Managing Director said  ‘Just a few weeks ago I really wasn’t sure if Hall-Fast would survive a few months however we were approved for a government backed Business Interruption Loan via NatWest and this has not only secured Hall-Fast’s existence it has given me my mojo back’


‘I really do feel like both businesses are new start-ups’’ ‘there has been a lot of graft and very long hours put in but within just six days we are up and running and already taking pre-orders online, initially we are selling the Source Control Masks in black however other colours will be available to pre-order online in the coming weeks ’


Hall-Fast have been supplying PPE for 15 years and have been following developments around the World, since the outbreak of Covid-19 there has been a huge global surge in demand for PPE items with limited stocks available for frontline workers, it is important that businesses and the public do not wear a PPE mask that is meant for an healthcare worker, on Tuesday this week Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon advised people to wear a face coverings to help limit the spread of Covid-19 and it is widely anticipated that when lock down restrictions are eased similar advice will be given out across the UK.


’Hall-Fast are a family business and we are well known locally for giving back to the community I guess it’s part of our makeup, we have been given a life-line and we want to help both our local Kings Mill and Mansfield Community Hospital charity and also the national NHS Charities Together by raising a significant amount of money for them and also by promoting very clear messages on the use of masks’

Coronavirus: Scottish government suggests covering face in shops


The Scottish government has recommended people cover their faces while in some enclosed public spaces, such as shops and public transport.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there could be "some benefit" in wearing a cloth face covering in places where social distancing was difficult.

But she said it was "not a substitute" for existing lockdown restrictions.

Downing Street said UK ministers were considering the scientific evidence for introducing similar advice.

The prime minister's official spokesman said a review had been carried out by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), adding: "Once a decision has been reached then we'll announce it publicly."

The Scottish government guidance is not mandatory and will not be enforced by the authorities.

Ms Sturgeon stressed that the advice related to cloth garments such as a scarf rather than "medical grade facemasks" like those used by health and care workers.

The first minister said evidence about the usefulness of face coverings was "limited", but that there may be "some benefit in wearing a face covering if you enter an enclosed space where you will come into contract with multiple people and safe social distancing is difficult".

She said: "To be clear, the benefit comes mainly in cases where someone might have the virus but is not aware of that because they are not experiencing symptoms and thus not isolating completely.

"Wearing a face covering in those circumstances may reduce the risk of that person transmitting the virus to others."

Ms Sturgeon said there was no evidence to suggest that wearing a face covering outdoors was of any benefit.

The first minister warned that she did not want people to "think they are invincible" while covering their face in enclosed spaces such as shops.

She said: "It may do some good in limited circumstances, but it cannot and should not be seen as a substitute for the other rules and guidelines."

The Scottish government's national clinical director, Prof Jason Leitch, said earlier this month there was "no evidence" to support members of the public wearing protective face masks.

What does does the guidance say?

The government advice says face coverings should not be used by people with asthma or children under the age of two.

It adds: "When applying or removing the covering, it is important that you wash your hands first and avoid touching your face.

"After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade, or dispose of it safely."

The guidance also says that it is "not being made mandatory and will not be enforced at this stage" due to the "relatively weak" evidence of the impact of face coverings on transmission of the virus.

However, Ms Sturgeon said this would be kept under review as the government considers how to ease lockdown restrictions.

Coronavirus: The science on face masks is ambiguous - but they may help 'source control'


Masks have become part of the back-to-work uniform as countries exit their lockdowns.

In Spain they are handed to commuters, while in Italy and Germany they are compulsory on public transport and in shops.

And in the United States any face covering - even a scarf - is recommended to reduce the spread of COVID-19

Scotland has announced that masks made of cloth should be worn in enclosed space such as on public transport or in a shop.

But the World Health Organisation only recommends them for people who are coughing or sneezing, or those who are caring for people with symptoms of the virus.

The science is ambiguous - and there have been no studies with the current coronavirus

It seems clear from the evidence that masks have little effect on the risk of picking up a virus. One study suggests they reduce the risk by just 6%.

But they do seem to stop people passing on respiratory infections.

In one trial there were no detectable virus particles in the exhaled air from those wearing masks, but there were in four out of 10 of those who weren't wearing one.

That's significant because people with coronavirus can spread it for two-and-a-half days before they develop symptoms.

So wearing a mask may come down to what infectious disease experts call "source control" - reducing the amount of virus being passed on to people nearby.

But there are risks of people accidentally contaminating their faces as they take their masks off.

And there is also a danger that people ignore the Scottish goverments advice to source a cloth mask and jeopardise supplies of medical PPE intended for health workers.

It's a balance, but governments are increasingly making the judgement that the benefits outweigh the risks.