New guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) has been issued for health and social care workers in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The guidelines, agreed among the UK’s four chief medical officers, cover a wide range of professions and scenarios.
They mean those working in care homes or looking after vulnerable people in their homes are required to wear masks.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman outlined the new rules on Thursday, saying millions of PPE items have been delivered to far.
In some situations, PPE will be able to be worn for “full sessions” and not changed after each patient.
Posters and online videos specifying what PPE should be worn and how it is put on will be sent to the relevant workers.
Unpaid carers who look after vulnerable family members will be able to access the appropriate PPE, she said.
Speaking at the daily briefing on coronavirus, she said: “In terms of shielding the extremely vulnerable in our society, the guidance asks that secondary, primary and community care home workers should wear a surgical mask when providing care to any individuals in this extremely vulnerable group.
“We appreciate that is is an incredibly busy time for all of our health and social care workers but we also know that those on the front-line need absolute clarity.”
The health secretary added: “Protecting staff working on the front-line is an absolute priority and I want to thank each and every one of them for their hard work and commitment in this incredibly challenging situation.
“I want our staff to feel as safe as possible and this updated guidance provides clarity so that health and social care staff caring for patients feel confident in which PPE they need to wear in different situations and settings.”
Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “The updates to the guidance reflect the fact that Covid-19 is now widespread in the community so health and social care workers are more likely to see patients with the virus, some of whom will not have symptoms yet.
“We have introduced new measures to improve the distribution of PPE, including a single point of contact for all health boards to manage local PPE supply and distribution, and an email address for NHS staff to contact if they do not have what they need.”
She said an email address had been set up for NHS workers who are concerned about a lack of PPE – covid-19-health-PPE@gov.scot