The government will urge everyone to wear a face covering in public spaces from Wednesday.
The new advice, trailed by foreign secretary Dominic Raab this morning, will apply to those in close proximity to others.
The foreign secretary, who stood in for Boris Johnson while he was ill, said that while face coverings don’t offer much protection from catching coronavirus they could help prevent the spread.
The advice is likely to be particularly applicable to those who need to use public transport and could also be followed by people visiting supermarkets and other stores in addition to social distancing measures.
The government will stress the difference between face coverings and medical-grade PPE. Face coverings will include homemade cloth face masks and other makeshift coverings such as scarfs.