Masks rules in Scotland to stay in force until April due to infection 'spike'

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addresses Scottish Parliament Credit: Scottish Parliament TV

Rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport are to remain in place in Scotland until April.

Addressing Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it would be "prudent" to keep mask rules in place amid rising Covid-19 cases.

Other restrictions are to be lifted sooner, with travel restrictions being dropped from Friday 18 March. On Monday 21 March, all remaining domestic legal measures will be lifted and replaced by guidance, with the exception of mask-wearing.

"I know this will be disappointing for businesses and service providers," Ms Sturgeon said.

"However, ensuring maximum continued usage 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."

Sturgeon said the emergence of the BA2 sublineage of the Omicron variant was responsible for rising case numbers.

According to the Office for National Statistics, an average of 6,900 new cases were being reported a day three weeks ago. This number has now risen to just over 12,000 a day, with roughly 80% of all reported cases being BA2, Sturgeon said.

But the First Minister added that there is "no evidence" that BA2 causes more severe illness than the original Omicron strain or that it is more effective at evading immunity. She said the lack of serious illness is the result of widespread immunity.

The restriction is to be reviewed in two weeks but is predicted to remain in place until early April when it will revert to guidance.

More to follow.