Covid Scotland: The easing of face mask rules is a major step in Scotland's pandemic

What are you going to do with your face coverings after Easter? From Monday, the legal requirement to wear these in most public settings will be scrapped in Scotland for the first time.

Many of us have built up a small herd of reusable masks by now, from the simple cloth stitched together in panic in the early months of 2020 to the branded articles companies rushed to produce as the ultimate pandemic accessory.

I remember looking at the wonderfully Santa-covered specimen my mother sewed me in December 2020 and thinking it was almost a shame I would only use it for only one festive season. How wrong I was, and I have set it aside for use again in December 2022.

You might be planning to continue wearing a mask beyond Monday - you definitely should if you are in a crowded indoor place or near any vulnerable people, many of whom tell me they are terrified at the law being eased.

A woman wears a face covering in England after the law was relaxed. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The Scottish Government guidance will be to continue wearing them, but anecdotal evidence in England suggests guidance hasn’t stood up to much there, where the legal requirement was scrapped for the second time in January.

I’ve had the debatable fortune to visit quite a few trains, buses, shops, and pubs in England recently, and was usually one of about five per cent of customers wearing a face covering, despite clear management guidance to retain them.

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The same may very well happen in Scotland, even though we are more accustomed to face covering laws here. People generally copy what others are doing, and as overall compliance drops it becomes harder and harder to be the odd one out.

The scrapping of the law will be welcomed by many – some of whom gave up on observing it long ago - but is dreaded by a vulnerable minority.

The actual face coverings no longer make a huge amount of difference – while they certainly help, a thin strip of cloth has less chance against the hyper-transmissible current strain of Omicron.

But face coverings are a major physical reminder of the pandemic (one reason some people have campaigned so desperately to get rid of them) and some experts believe they cue people to be more careful in other ways.

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