Will face masks be mandatory in Level 0 Scotland? What are the different rules for England and Scotland after Sturgeon's announcement?
Following announcements from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about new coronavirus rules in England and Scotland, here’s what you need to know about face mask rules.
In her much-awaited announcement today (July 13), the First Minister confirmed that Scotland would be moving into Level 0 on Monday July 19, with many restrictions relaxing to provide Scots with greater freedom to travel, work and socialise.
But with Scotland recently displaying some of the highest infection rates in Europe, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has routinely stressed that face masks remain an essential way to stop people from unknowingly passing on the virus – especially when the Delta variant appears to be highly transmissible and harder to detect.
Ms Sturgeon’s approach to face masks after July 19 jars with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s, after he announced on July 5 that all coronavirus restrictions in England, including those on social distancing, face masks and working from home, would soon be relaxed for “Freedom Day” on July 19.
The Prime Minister declared that covid-19 face masks and coverings will no longer be mandatory to wear in indoor public spaces or on public transport in England – in a move which is already proving controversial and being questioned by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham.
Scotland’s own proposed “Freedom Day” is due to take place on August 9 if the easing of some restrictions in Level 0 go to plan.
Here’s a rundown of what the current face mask rules are in England and Scotland, and how these will change on July 19.
What are the current rules for face masks in the UK?
Right now, face masks or coverings need not be worn when gathering outdoors, but are required for most indoor public spaces like shops, restaurants, museums, taxis and transport hubs.
The most recent easing of restrictions saw people in Scotland’s level two areas being able to remove face masks when seated to eat or drink in a pub, bar or restaurant – as was also the case in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Face masks were also strongly advised to be worn in care homes and healthcare settings to prevent the spread of the virus.
What are the new face mask rules?
The Prime Minister’s announcement will likely see many people cease to wear face masks on trains, planes and in shops after making them optional.
Once face masks rules are relaxed in England on July 19 and made a matter of personal choice, this does not mean that the same will apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as all four nations have their own separate rules and covid-19 restrictions even if they appear to be quite similar.
While Scotland is now confirmed move into Level 0 on July 19, with all restrictions to be potentially lifted on a provisional date of August 9, this does not mean that rules on wearing face masks and social distancing no longer apply.
Indeed, the Scottish Government has said that they will be prioritising caution as the Delta variant of coronavirus continues to see high numbers of positive cases across Scotland.
Will face masks be mandatory in Level 0 Scotland?
Speaking on Tuesday (July 13), Nicola Sturgeon said that to ensure that vulnerable people in Scotland would not have to go back into shielding or isolation, "certain mitigations, such as the mandatory wearing of face coverings will remain in place, not just now but in all likelihood for some time to come.”
As such, while face masks will become a matter of personal choice in England on July 19, they will remain mandatory to wear in indoor public spaces in Scotland –unless you are exempt from wearing them due to a medical condition or similar matter.
“It is important to stress that measures like the continued wearing of face coverings are important not just to give added protection to the population as a whole, but also to get protection on the assurance to those amongst those who are particularly vulnerable and previously had to shield,” the First Minister added in her announcement.
“Lifting all restrictions and mitigations right now would put all of us at greater risk, but in particular it would make it much more difficult for the most clinically vulnerable to go about their normal life.
"It would risk the imposition of shielding by default and in my view that is not something we should do.”
The Scottish Government currently advises people to wear a face covering in indoor places where social distancing with people from outside your household is not possible – with the same applying to outdoor gatherings too.
One of the ‘modifications’ to Scotland’s original Level 0 restrictions will see social distancing in indoor public spaces remain in force from July 19, but reduced from two metres to one.
Face masks or coverings are required across all levels in Scotland, from zero to four, and must be worn even if you have been double vaccinated.
For more information, visit the Scottish Government’s full face covering guidance at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-public-use-of-face-coverings/pages/overview/.