The Scottish Government has recommended that people wear face coverings when in “enclosed spaces”, such as public transport and food shops.
New guidance published on the government’s website recommends that people cover their faces with a cloth or fabric in places where social distancing is difficult.
Nicola Sturgeon pointed to the guidance during Tuesday’s daily coronavirus press briefing, which she said is merely a recommendation and not mandatory since the current evidence of the effects of face coverings is limited.
She said science shows there might be some benefit to wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, in cases where someone has the virus and is unaware of it.
Ms Sturgeon stressed a facial covering should be in the form of a fabric which is easy to breathe through, like a scarf, rather than a surgical or medical face mask.
We are recommending you do wear a cloth face covering if you are in an enclosed space with others where social distancing is difficult, for example on public transport or in a shop – First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
The First Minister reminded the public they should not often be in places where it is difficult to keep two metres apart, and that the current guidelines for staying at home, hygiene measures and social distancing remain the most important.
Facial coverings should not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions, the guidance says.
It states: “The evidence on the use of face coverings is limited, but there may be some benefit in wearing a facial covering when you leave the house and enter enclosed spaces, especially where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people you do not usually meet.
“Examples include, travelling on public transport or entering a food shop where it is not always possible to maintain a two metre distance from another customer. There is no evidence to suggest there might be a benefit outdoors, unless in an unavoidable crowded situation, where there may be some benefit.”
The guidance is to be kept under ongoing review as the government considers easing of the country’s current lockdown measures.
Asked whether people in the rest of the UK would be wondering why they hadn’t been advised to wear face coverings, Nicola Sturgeon said: “There will be some instances when we decide to do things ahead of other administrations. It should not be seen as evidence of any kind of split. We think this is appropriate in Scotland.”
The current World Health Organization (WHO) guidance recommends only two groups of people should wear protective masks in public – those that are sick and showing symptoms and those who are caring for people who are suspected to have the virus.
It says medical masks should be reserved for healthcare workers.