Coronavirus: Face coverings to become mandatory in Scottish shops

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Media captionCoronavirus: Face coverings in shops ‘can reduce risk’

The use of face coverings will become mandatory in shops in Scotland as coronavirus restrictions are eased, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Non-essential shops have reopened in Scotland and bars and restaurants are due to open up again later this month.

The first minister said the 2m physical distancing rule would be eased for some premises when the country enters the next phase of its routemap on 10 July.

And she said face coverings would be mandatory in shops from that date.

Ms Sturgeon also announced that children under the age of 12 would no longer need to maintain physical distancing from other households while outdoors from Friday.

The first minister had ordered further scientific study of the 2m (6ft 6in) physical distancing rule after it was announced a “one metre plus” system would be introduced in England.

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Media captionCoronavirus: How to wear a face covering

She said advice was clear that “as the distance between people decreases, the risk of transmitting the virus increases”, but said this could be “mitigated by other measures”.

‘Serious economic implications’

The first minister said the “general advice will remain unchanged” and that “as far as possible” people should remain 2m away from other households.

But she said in view of the “serious economic implications” of maintaining the rule in all circumstances, she would allow “exemptions for specific sectors” where a 1m (3ft 3in) distance could be used if other safety measures are introduced.

An example of this would be a pub or restaurant being allowed to relax the physical distancing rule when they can reopen from 15 July if plastic screens are used to separate customers, or better ventilation is installed.

Businesses will also be expected to display “clear signage to show people are entering a 1m zone”, and to collect a list of customers and their contact details to help trace them if there is an outbreak.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Many pubs have been installing plastic screens ahead of reopening on 15 July

The change to the distancing rule will be introduced from the start of “phase three” of the government’s “route map” towards lifting lockdown, currently set to be reviewed on 9 July.

And Ms Sturgeon said that from the start of phase three, the use of face coverings would become mandatory in shops, with exemptions for young children and people with certain health conditions.

She said that using face coverings – which are already mandatory on public transport – could “help reduce the risk of transmission indoors” and “provide an additional layer of protection”.

“We have proceeded for a period with a voluntary approach to this,” she said. “Some people are complying and some are not, I’m not pointing fingers or trying to blame people for that but we have to make a judgement if we’re heading into a period where more people are interacting.

“And we’ve been having a discussion with more sectors like retail about reducing distancing, and that increases the importance of mitigations like face coverings.”

‘Extremely disappointed’

Business group CBI Scotland welcomed the easing of the social distancing rule, saying it would “make a substantial difference to the viability of thousands of firms in Scotland”, particularly in the leisure, tourism and hospitality sectors.

However, the Scottish Grocers Federation said it was “extremely disappointed” at the move to make face coverings mandatory, saying it would increase pressure on staff to enforce measures.

Ms Sturgeon said shop staff would not be expected to enforce the rule, with the police instead mandated to issue fixed penalty notices to people not wearing face coverings.

She accepted that this may not be an easy rule to police, saying officers would act “very proportionately and sensitively”.

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The Scottish government has targeted effectively eliminating the virus north of the border, with the number of people estimated to be infectious falling to 1,500 by the end of June.

Ms Sturgeon said the “continued low prevalence of the virus” meant further changes to lockdown restrictions could be introduced.

The current five-mile limit on travel for leisure purposes is to be eased from Friday, with people urged to “behave responsibly” and “be sensitive to people living in rural areas”.

However, there will be an exemption for some towns in the Dumfries and Galloway area where an outbreak of the virus is being investigated.

Ten positive cases have been identified around Annan and Gretna, although Ms Sturgeon said she was “very hopeful this outbreak will be contained”.

She said people in surrounding areas should “assume there is a higher risk of infection right now” and avoid travelling, adding: “I am genuinely sorry about that, but this outbreak is sharply reminding us just just how infectious Covid is.”

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