Nicola Sturgeon relaxes Scotland's mask laws from MONDAY

Nicola Sturgeon reveals Scotland’s mask laws will FINALLY be relaxed starting from Monday for weddings and churches – but rules will stay until mid-April for public transport and shops amid record Covid hospital cases

  • From Monday law will be replaced by guidance for churches and at weddings 
  • But restrictions mandatory for retailers and public transport until April 18 
  • Scotland has reported 9,610 new cases of Covid-19 , as well as 34 new deaths

Nicola Sturgeon will force Scottish shoppers to wear masks for three more weeks as she announced only a ‘phased’ removal of Scotland’s tough face covering laws

From Monday the laws will be replaced by guidance to cover up in churches and at weddings, she told Holyrood this afternoon.

But the restrictions will remain mandatory for retailers and public transport until April 18 amid record Covid hospitalisations.   

Scotland has reported a further 9,610 new cases of Covid-19, as well as 34 new deaths.

Scottish Government figures also showed that 2,344 people were in hospital in Scotland on Tuesday, down from a record 2,383 the previous day.

Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood today that while the daily coronavirus numbers are still ‘very high’, they may be stabilising. 

She stressed her government will ‘continue to encourage the wearing of face coverings in certain indoor places, especially where significant numbers of people are present’.

She added: ‘This phased approach strikes a sensible balance between our desire to remove this one remaining legal measure and the common sense need for continued caution – not least for the sake of the NHS – while this wave of infection subsides. 

From Monday the laws will be replaced by guidance to cover up in churches and at weddings, she told Holyrood this afternoon.

Tory leader Douglas Ross accused her of constantly moving the goalposts.

Ms Sturgeon was pictured maskless at the Service of Thanksgiving for the Duke of Edinburgh in London yesterday – were ruled have already been eased

‘I recognise that face coverings are an inconvenience. However, given all the sacrifice of the past two years and in view of the current pressure on the NHS, I believe the vast majority of people will accept that for a further two weeks this is a proportionate precautionary measure while we pass the peak of this latest wave.

‘It also provides some further protection to those who are most at risk from the virus.’

But Tory leader Douglas Ross accused her of constantly moving the goalposts.

‘We believe that anyone who wants to keep wearing a face mask should keep doing so, particularly if it will protect vulnerable friends and relatives,’ he said.

‘But it should be down to individual choice. ‘We should leave it up to people and businesses to decide what’s best for them, based on public health advice.

‘Nicola Sturgeon has to start trusting the people of Scotland.’ 

The hospital total includes 20 people who were in intensive care on Tuesday with recently confirmed Covid-19.

The latest deaths take the total number of people who had died within 28 days of contracting coronavirus in Scotland to 11,393.

Meanwhile, 4,353,991 people have received their first dose of Covid vaccine, 4,092,791 have received two doses, and a total of 3,451,131 have had three doses. 

Mr Sturgeon told MSPs: ‘The most recent ONS Covid infection survey, for the week ending March 20, indicated that one in 11 people in Scotland had Covid.

‘That is the highest level of infection so far recorded by this weekly survey and it does reflect the impact of the highly infectious BA.2 subvariant of the virus.

‘The daily case numbers also show a very high, though perhaps stabilising, level of infection.

‘Today, 9,610 new cases identified through PCR or lateral flow tests will be reported.’

She said there was ‘cautious optimism’ that the latest wave of coronavirus may have peaked.

It came after an infections expert said that maintaining a legal requirement on Scots to wear face masks while on public transport and shopping is now ‘too big a force’.

Dr Christine Tait-Burkard said cases of the BA2 Omicron subvariant had peaked about two weeks ago. And while the number of Scots in hospital with the virus has reached record highs in recent days, she said these figures ‘look like they are starting to drop’. 

The Edinburgh University expert told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: ‘I think recommendations for people to wear masks in high risk environments is the right course of action, it doesn’t need that legal enforcement any more.’ 

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