Covid Scotland: Face masks, travel restrictions and working from home to continue beyond level 0

The requirement to wear face coverings, advice to work from home and restrictions on international travel are likely to remain in Scotland beyond level zero, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Ms Sturgeon outlined Scotland’s route to easing of restrictions in an update to MSPs on Tuesday.

The country will move to level zero on July 19, she said, three weeks after the June 28 date originally set.

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If there are no concerns around rising hospitalisations or deaths, Scotland will move “beyond level zero” on August 9.

Picture: Getty Images
Picture: Getty Images

This will be a return to “almost complete normality”, the First Minister said, and will see almost all legal restrictions lifted.

However, some limits may remain, including the legal requirement to physically distance indoors and outdoors.

Even if this measure is lifted, Scottish Government advice may remain to keep a distance from others, especially for those who are not fully vaccinated.

The requirement to wear face coverings in some settings, including shops and public transport, will also likely remain.

Test and Protect will continue to function, and while the Scottish Government is reviewing the need for close contacts to self-isolate after vaccination, those who test positive will still need to do so.

Office workers may still be advised to work from home, with a return to the office “phased in” from July 19.

Travel restrictions may also remain to some countries, as new variants pose “the biggest threat to our progress”, Ms Sturgeon said.

In a document published on Tuesday, the Scottish Government said it would continue to manage Covid-19 “for the foreseeable future”.

“To maintain the progress we have made in returning to more normality, it will be important that people continue to stick to a set of baseline measures, covered either by regulations or guidance, to stop the virus resurging and to protect those who do not have protection from vaccination,” the Strategic Framework states.

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Rowland Kao, professor of veterinary epidemiology at Edinburgh University, said in advance of Ms Sturgeon’s statement on Tuesday that while Covid figures in Scotland at the moment “could be better”, they were still good.

“People keep asking if this is going to [continue] forever, and that’s not what the evidence is saying,” he said.

The summer holidays should reduce case numbers as fewer young people, who now make up the bulk of those unvaccinated, will be mixing in schools, Prof Kao said.

Less mixing and more vaccination should move Scotland forward in a “positive way”, he said.

But Prof Kao warned Scotland still faced a risk of new variants which could derail this progress.

“Internationally the fact that we've got this mix of vaccinated people and unvaccinated high levels of infections … we’re now in the phase where vaccine escape mutants, ones that specifically evade vaccines, are more likely,” he said.

“If that happens, unless those variants also cause lower levels of morbidity and death [...] then we need to shift gears again.”

Variants may eventually emerge which cause lower death rates, but this may take some time, Prof Kao said.

Until then, vaccine evading strains will cause setbacks, as booster vaccines will need to be developed.

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