When can we stop wearing face masks in Scotland? If Covid face coverings will be required after Freedom Day
The Scottish Government has said there will be an ‘ongoing need’ for face masks in the country if restrictions are lifted on 9 August
Face coverings have become a part of daily life during the Covid pandemic.
People have been required to wear face masks in most indoor settings in Scotland since July last year, including on public transport, in shops and when moving around cafes and restaurants.
But coronavirus restrictions are gradually being lifted as part of the roadmap out of lockdown, with the Scottish Government hoping to ease all remaining legal restrictions on 9 August.
So, will we need to wear masks after so-called “Freedom Day”?
Here is everything you need to know.
When can we stop wearing face masks in Scotland?
Scotland is scheduled to move to the lowest level of Covid restrictions - Level 0 - on 19 July, paving the way for a return to normal.
Following that, all other major legal restrictions are due to be scrapped on 9 August.
But while some rules, like social distancing, could end then, the government has said there will be an “ongoing need” for face coverings.
It said Scots will still need to wear masks in certain settings, including when using public transport and going into shops.
A spokesperson for the government said: "We will take account of social and economic factors as well as the epidemiological impact on transmission and will keep measures under review.
"As the First Minister has set out, we will have to manage living with Covid-19 for some time to come, even when we are able to move beyond Level 0.
"There will still be some ongoing need for face coverings, for example on public transport and in retail.”
Further guidance on face masks will be published by the end of this month, they said.
Those with certain medical conditions or disabilities, and children under five, are currently exempt from wearing face masks.
What does Freedom Day mean in Scotland?
Freedom Day is the name that has been given to the moment all remaining coronavirus restrictions are finally lifted.
While a move to Level 0 has been on the cards for Scotland for some time, the government had not previously given a date for when the rest of the rules could be eased, as Boris Johnson did for England.
But that changed at the end of June, when Ms Sturgeon announced that, if all goes to plan, all remaining legal measures could be scrapped on 9 August.
At this point, the country could return to “almost complete normality”, she said.
However, this proposed date could be brought forward or pushed back depending on the pandemic situation in Scotland.
If the Covid vaccine continues to break the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths, and as more people are inoculated, it is possible that Freedom Day will go ahead then.
Some minor rules may remain, though. As well as face masks in some settings, the government will also not advise an immediate return to office working on 9 August, Ms Sturgeon said.
What will the mask rules be in England?
Meanwhile, rules on face coverings are expected to differ between England and Scotland as both countries emerge from lockdown at varying paces.
All legal restrictions are due to be lifted north of the border on 19 July, a few weeks before more rules change in Scotland.
On England’s “Freedom Day”, it is expected that wearing masks will not be mandatory and will instead become a “personal responsibility”.
Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday (4 July), Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the public would have to “exercise good judgement” when it comes to issues such as face coverings.
He said: "We will be moving into a phase where these will be matters of personal choice. So some members of society will want to do so for perfectly legitimate reasons but it will be a different period where we as private citizens make these judgements rather than the government telling you what to do… but you will want to exercise a degree of personal responsibility and judgement."
Mr Jenrick also said he would like the four nations to “move as one” on coronavirus restrictions.
"We would like the whole of the union to move as one. We are going to work with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to try and be as co-ordinated as possible,” he told the BBC.
"Cases are slightly different in each of the four nations but certainly in England, our view is that things are looking positive for July 19."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to make an announcement about step four in the lifting of restrictions in England on Monday (5 July). He is expected to address the issue of face coverings then.
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