Employees are being advised not to wear face masks in work to combat the threat of catching the coronavirus.

Guidance published by the Government says face masks are only recommended to be worn by “symptomatic individuals” to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people.

The Business Department and Public Health England recommended that the best way to reduce any risk of infection is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (closer than 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.

Firms are being told that any workers who deal with members of the public from behind a full screen will be protected from airborne particles.

The guidance, aimed at employers and businesses, says that if someone becomes unwell in the workplace and has travelled to China or other affected countries, they should be removed to an area at least two metres away from other people.

The guidance says: “If possible find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as a staff office. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation.

“The individual who is unwell should call NHS 111 from their mobile, or 999 if an emergency (if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk) and explain which country they have returned from in the last 14 days and outline their current symptoms.

“Whilst they wait for advice from NHS 111 or an ambulance to arrive, they should remain at least two metres from other people. They should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and be advised to cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in a bag or pocket then throw the tissue in the bin.

“If they don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow.

“If they need to go to the bathroom whilst waiting for medical assistance, they should use a separate bathroom if available.”

Some firms have started to allow people to work from home and are restricting travel in response to the outbreak.