Scotland’s mandatory face-covering laws will now be in effect until April 18, according to Nicola Sturgeon. Next week, the requirement to wear masks in stores and on public transportation was expected to be lifted.
The first minister, however, informed MSPs that the changes would not take effect until April 18th.
She explained that this was due to the high level of infection still present in Scotland, as well as the fact that masks provide additional protection.
The requirement to cover one’s face in places of worship, as well as at weddings and funerals, will be lifted on April 4th.
This phased approach, according to Ms Sturgeon, struck a “sensible balance between our desire to remove this one remaining legal measure and the common sense need for continued caution”
In recent weeks, the number of cases in Scotland has reached new highs, with one in every 11 people infected in the week leading up to March 20.
On Wednesday morning, just hours before Ms Sturgeon made her announcement, both Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Justice Secretary Keith Brown tested positive.
The daily figures remained high, but Ms Sturgeon said they were “perhaps stabilising” with a 15% drop from about 12,000 cases to 10,200 in the last week.
She did say, however, that due to the high levels of infection and the strain it was putting on the NHS, the planned repeal of the face-covering law would be postponed until April 18.
This would be a “proportionate precautionary measure while we pass the peak of this latest wave” she said to MSPs.
This is the second time the first minister has postponed the repeal of the face mask laws, which were supposed to be repealed on March 21. All other legal restrictions in Scotland have already been phased out.
Cotton masks offered “much less protection” from the BA.2 subvariant, according to Dr Christine Tait-Burkard, a leading infection expert at the University of Edinburgh, because far fewer virus particles needed to be inhaled to catch it.
“The surgical and cotton masks just allow a little more virus to get through,” she explained. They’re still useful for people who aren’t at high risk because they prevent them from releasing a lot of virus into the environment. For those who are more vulnerable, now is probably the time to upgrade to an FFP2 mask, at least until the environmental pressure from so many infected people subsides.”