FACE mask rules for indoor settings will remain in place beyond March, the First Minister has announced.
In February, the Scottish Government announced that the legal requirement to wear masks in indoor settings, including retail premises, would be lifted on 21 March.
That announcement was ‘pending a review of medical evidence’ and the First Minister told MSPs that due to relatively high Covid case rates, mask wearing would continue to be mandatory.
Sturgeon said that it is now the expectation that the rules on face coverings will convert to guidance, “in early April.”
“Given the current spike in case numbers, we consider it prudent to retain this requirement in regulation for another short period. I know this will be disappointing for businesses and service providers, such as day care services, however ensuring maximum continued use of face coverings will provide some additional protection, particularly for the most vulnerable, at a time when the risk of infection is very high, and it may help us get over this spike more quickly,” she said.
The rules on face coverings first came into force on 10 July 2020 as part of a raft of measures aimed at slowing the spread of Covid.
David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “There is no doubt retailers will be feeling a little deflated at the news of a recent rise in Covid case numbers which has led the Scottish Government to delay the relaxation of all restrictions. Scots have now been required to wear face coverings in shops for 612 days, in contrast to other parts of the UK where restrictions have flexed more swiftly in line with the progress of the virus.
“Nonetheless, the direction of travel remains positive with the news the statutory guidance for retailers on mitigations and the requirements to collect customer data in retailers’ cafes, coffee shops and wider hospitality businesses will be ending from Monday. Rightly this new phase of moving beyond restrictions will mean much of the duty to keep shops and colleagues safe falls on businesses themselves not Covid-related regulations. It will be up to retailers and customers to continue to show consideration and good sense whilst Covid remains a risk.
“When Scotland does finally escape all restrictions, retailers will hope to see support to help town and city centres recover. High streets have suffered enormously from the lack of visitors in the last two years – it will require both financial assistance and a clear upbeat message to rebuild after the hardship of the last two years.”