LiveCovid LIVE: Nicola Sturgeon says face masks will remain in place in Scotland | Covid cases rising, ONS data shows

Follow the latest news here as Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce the majority Covid restrictions in Scotland at Parliament today.

Despite Covid infections in Scotland being at their highest level since records began in Autumn 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the First Minister is expected to announce the lifting of the majority of remaining restrictions.

Legal restrictions such as the requirement to wear masks in shops and on public transport were due to end on 21 March and changed to guidance.

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, with the First Minister saying it is “prudent” for this to remain in place given the “current spike in case numbers”.

Follow live her as Nicola Sturgeon is expected to lift final Covid restrictions in Scotland.

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At the moment, businesses are legally required to take steps to reduce the spread of Covid, including physical distancing and screens.

That is also expected to end on March 21, as will the legal requirement to retain customers' contact details.

Follow this live blog for all the latest and major announcements as Nicola Sturgeon speaks to Parliament on Tuesday at around 2.20pm.

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Covid LIVE: Nicola Sturgeon to announce final restriction easing in Scotland

Last updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2022, 14:58

  • Face mask requirement remains until April as Covid cases rise
  • Social distancing rules in shops and other indoor public settings will be lifted next Monday, as will the requirement for venues to collect contact details for customers
  • Covid infections in Scotland being at their highest level since records began in Autumn 2020, ONS data shows

Major points from FM’s Covid Statement

-Face mask requirement remains until April as Covid cases rise

-Social distancing rules in shops and other indoor public settings will be lifted next Monday, as will the requirement for venues to collect contact details for customers

-Free lateral flow tests available until April 18

-Vaccinations for 5-11 year olds starts on Saturday

-Additional boosters for over-75s start next week

-A total of 1,996 people were in hospital with Covid yesterday - an increase of 191 on the previous day and near the peak seen in January of last year

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday March 10, 2022.

BREAKING: Face coverings to remain in place despite proposed restriction easing

Given the current spike in case numbers, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government “considers it prudent to retain this requirement in regulation for a further short period”.

Ms Sturgeon said the Government will review this again in two weeks - before Easter recess - and said the expectation is that this regulation will convert to guidance in early April.

She added: “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.”

On Monday, the requirement on businesses and service providers to retain customer contact details will end.

The requirement for businesses, places of worship and service providers to have regard to Scottish Government guidance on Covid, and to take reasonably practicable measures set out in the guidance will also end.

Nicola Sturgeon wears a face mask with a map of Ukraine on it as she meets members of the Ukrainian Community at the Edinburgh Ukrainian Club

Jackie Baillie: Asks for more information on testing for health and social care workers

FM said health and social care workers will be advised to keep testing after the end of April “likely on a twice weekly basis”.

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie was visibly emotional in Holyrood

Ross: ‘Face coverings announcement blow for Scots’

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the continued requirement to wear face coverings was a ‘blow’ for households and businesses in Scotland.

He said ‘Covid cases were always going to rise’ and ‘we have to move forward’.

Ms Sturgeon insisted Scotland is ‘not stuck’ and said most will be ‘accepting’ and ‘understanding’ of the decision as a result of the increase in Covid cases. Ms Sturgeon said she wants to see case numbers ‘stabilise’ before changes are made.

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

FM: ‘Steady progress back to normal life’

Ms Sturgeon asked people to “be patient” around face covering rules.

Scot Gov adopting “same long term position” on testing as England

However, the FM said: “We consider that the transition should be longer.”

For the next month - until Easter - there will be no change to Scot Gov’s testing advice.

The FM said Scot Gov intends for the transition to last until the end of April.

She added: “This is as far as we can go within funding constraints, but it allows us to take account of current case numbers, and better support the shift in our management of the virus.”

All Covid-related travel restrictions to be lifted from Friday

Ms Sturgeon said: “From Friday, and in line with other UK nations, all remaining Covid-related travel restrictions will be lifted.”

Virus threat “medium”

Ms Sturgeon also said the Scottish Government’s assessment is that the virus continues to present a “medium threat”.

However, the FM said: “we remain optimistic that it will move from medium to low over spring.”

FM urges Scots to get vaccines

The First Minister said: “If you haven’t yet had doses you are eligible for, please get them now.”

Case numbers: 38,770 Covid cases reported in the past four days

The total for the equivalent 4 day period last week was 36,051.

These figures “reflect the recent increase in cases”, the FM said.

The ONS survey suggests that in the week to 6 March, 1 in 18 people in Scotland had

Covid.

There has also been a rise in the number of people who are in hospital with Covid.

Three weeks ago, that stood at 1,060. Today it is 1,996.

BA.2 (a sub lineage of the Omicron variant) is now Scotland’s dominant strain, accounting for more than 80% of all reported cases.

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