Laws requiring masks to be worn on public transport and in some other settings in Scotland will not be scrapped next week as planned due to the “current spike” in COVID cases, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
“Coverings will be required in most indoor public settings and will last until at least early April, the first minister announced today.”
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that from 18 April those with COVID symptoms will no longer be asked to take regular lateral flow tests and people without symptoms will not be required to take twice-weekly lateral flow tests.
Tests will continue to be free in Scotland for primary care and health and social care workers, as well as those who visit people in care homes and hospitals.
People will be required to isolate and get a PCR test if they show coronavirus symptoms until the end of April, while vaccinated close contacts with someone who tests positive should continue to test daily for seven days.
Responding to the First Minister’s statement UKHospitality Scotland’s Executive Director, Leon Thompson, today said: “Hospitality businesses will be pleased that the collection of customer details will end as planned next Monday, 21 March.
“However, the extension of the compulsory wearing of face coverings when entering, exiting, and moving around in venues will cause disappointment for many business owners, workers and customers who were looking forward to the end of this most visible of restrictions.
“As well as the symbolic significance of face coverings, they continue to create practical problems for hospitality workers – particularly in relation to communication and providing that welcoming smile that guests missed for too long.
“With no evidence provided today that masks are making a difference in combatting the spread of covid in Scotland, businesses will hope for better news ahead of the Scottish Parliament’s Easter recess.”
The announcement has also been met with disappointment from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).
The SLTA believes that Scotland not falling into line with England, where wearing a face covering is no longer required by law, will confuse people – particularly visitors from south of the Border.
“All this does is put yet more pressure on licensed hospitality businesses to police this requirement,” said Paul Waterson, SLTA media spokesperson. “It’s hugely unfair that staff should have to tell customers they cannot enter their premises unless they are wearing a face covering.
“In most cases, customers understand that the law in Scotland is different and will either comply by wearing a mask or walk away. However, we are aware of instances whereby customers simply don’t accept the law and they take out their frustration on staff. That is not acceptable.
“While the advice going forward – regardless of the law – will be to continue wearing a face covering in crowded places with people asked to weigh up their own personal responsibility, it is evident that many people are jaded and simply not bothering. You only have to go into a supermarket to observe that fewer people are wearing masks.
“The licensed hospitality sector is at a stage now where business is picking up – this makes the messaging confusing for visitors from England who will support our hospitality businesses.
“Our sector still has many ongoing issues to overcome and there is an onus on the Scottish Government to support our industry which is key to the economy and jobs. We need them to promote confidence and positivity.”