Nicola Sturgeon backtracks over plan to scrap face masks as concern grows over Covid cases

Face masks will continue to be a legal requirement on public transport and in public spaces in Scotland

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Nicola Sturgeon has halted the plan to lift remaining Covid-19 restrictions and scrap face masks after a spike in virus cases and hospital admissions.

Scotland’s First Minister has said the postponement is “temporary and precautionary” and subject to review.

Face masks, which are currently a legal requirement in Scotland on public transport and in public spaces, were set to be scrapped on March 21st.

But when addressing the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Ms Sturgeon said cases have risen too sharply for the plan to go ahead.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets Senia Urquhart at the Edinburgh Ukrainian Club
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets Senia Urquhart at the Edinburgh Ukrainian Club

She announced cases are over 12,000 a day, which is up from 6,900 three weeks ago.

According to the Office of National Statistics, one in 18 people had Covid in the first week of March.

Professor Sir Gregor Smith said about 85% of cases in Scotland are suspected to be the new Omnicron subvariant BA.2

Ms Sturgeon said to ministers: “Given the current spike in case numbers, we consider it prudent to retain this requirement in regulation for a further short period.

“I know this will be disappointing for businesses and service providers such as day care services.

“However, ensuring maximum widespread 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.

“We will review it again in two weeks - before the Easter recess - and our expectation now is that this regulation will convert to guidance in early April.”

A Government press release later stated that legal requirements on face coverings will continue until "at least early April".

The legal requirement for businesses to obtain customer contact details will however be scrapped on Monday.