Sturgeon announces face masks to remain mandatory for at least two more weeks

The laws on mask-wearing in indoor public places in Scotland were due to be removed on the 21st

Nicola Sturgeon announced today that mask restrictions would stay in place for at least another two weeks, despite previous plans to remove restrictions on the 21st.

Following this announcement masks will continue to be mandatory in most indoor settings and public transport.

The decision will be reviewed in approximately two weeks, with Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer saying he hoped all restrictions will be lifted by the Easter holidays.

Sturgeon told MSPs today that the decision was based on “current case numbers, and the desirability of getting those back under control quickly”.

The sudden change comes due to the rising cases from the BA.2 sub-variant. The BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in Scotland, accounting for more than 80 per cent of all cases.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Gregor Smith advised Sturgeon to take a cautious approach to lifting the restrictions, as concerns grow due to a rise in case numbers.

He said: “That is a decision that ministers will make over the coming 24 hours. I think that a cautious approach at this moment in time is probably the right approach, and we are already seeing the public adopting those additional protections.”

“The number of people in hospital with Covid has increased, with 1,805 receiving treatment yesterday, compared with 1,360 one week earlier and 1,175 a fortnight ago. The number in intensive care rose from 19 on February 28th to 27 yesterday. There were 121 deaths in the week to last Friday.”

However, the other restrictions will be lifted on 21st March as planned. Covid passports will no longer be needed for venues like nightclubs or concerts.

Plus, hospitality venues like bars, pubs, and restaurants will not be legally obligated to take contact details for track and trace.

Widespread Covid testing is, especially for those who are asymptomatic, is still planned to stop by the end of April.

Sturgeon told Holyrood: “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 daycare services. However, ensuring continued 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.”

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All legal Covid restrictions in Scotland will end on 21 March