Nicola Sturgeon announcement today: Covid restrictions in Scotland, face mask rules and rising cases explained

Nicola Sturgeon said the face covering rule would need to stay in place due to rising Covid cases

Laws requiring face coverings to be worn on public transport and some other settings in Scotland will not be scrapped next week as planned, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

The First Minister said it was “prudent” for it to remain in place given the “current spike in case numbers”.

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Ms Sturgeon did say however, that the legal requirement for certain premises to retain customer contact details will be dropped as planned.

And from next month people without symptoms will no longer be advised to test twice weekly.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

What did Nicola Sturgeon say about face coverings?

She said rising cases driven by the BA.2 sub-variant meant the rule would have to stay in place beyond 21 March, until at least 4 April. It will be reviewed again in two weeks’ time.

The law on masks, which applies to public transport and enclosed public spaces, was due to be converted to guidance on 21 March.

The First Minister said: “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 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.”

Is BA.2 the dominant strain?

Yes. Updating MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister said the sub-variant now accounted for more than 80% of all cases.

She said: “The increase in cases over the past three weeks has been driven by the BA.2 sub-lineage of the Omicron variant, which is estimated to be significantly more transmissible – with a growth rate since mid-February perhaps 80% greater than original Omicron.

“BA.2 is now our dominant strain, accounting for more than 80% of all reported cases.

“BA.2 has become dominant in Scotland earlier than in England and Wales, hence the more rapid increase in cases here than south of the border in recent weeks – although cases and hospital admissions are now rising sharply again in England too.”

What’s the latest Covid cases total?

New figures showed 38,770 new cases of the virus have been confirmed since Saturday, 12 March.

The number of coronavirus patients in hospital has also continued to rise to the highest level for more than a year.

There were 1,996 people in hospital on Monday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up 191 on the previous day, with 33 in intensive care, up six.

What’s happening with testing?

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that advice on testing would also change next month, saying from 18 April “we will no longer advise people without symptoms to test twice weekly”.

She added: “With the exception of health and care settings, the advice to test regularly will also end from April 18 for workplaces, and for early learning and childcare settings, mainstream and special schools, and universities and colleges.”

People who are a close contact of someone who is confirmed as having Covid will continue to be advised to do daily lateral flow tests until the end of April, Ms Sturgeon added.

And those with symptoms of the virus will be advised to get a PCR test up until that date.

After that, Ms Sturgeon said: “Our intention is that from the end of April all routine population-wide testing will end, including for those who have symptoms.

“Contact tracing will end at this point too – although people with symptoms of respiratory illness will be advised to stay at home.”

Test sites will close at the end of next month, with the First Minister saying from 1 May testing will be used instead “on a targeted basis” and for for surveillance purposes.

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