However, the First Minister, who stressed she had worn a mask while travelling and abided by the rules in England, instead decided yesterday to extend the facemask law covering public transport, shops and some other settings by two weeks until April 18.
Explaining her decision, she pointed to the “very high level of [Covid] infection and the pressure on the NHS”, although she added that the current wave had “peaked or is now peaking”.
And the rate of infections is high with 9,610 new cases reported yesterday – along with 34 deaths and 2,344 people in hospital with a recently confirmed infection – but this is despite widespread facemask-wearing in Scotland.
While Sturgeon’s reasoning does make some sense, and many may choose to continue to wear masks after the law is lifted, we now need to move towards a situation where we must focus on dealing with the fallout from Covid, rather than on containing its spread. A zero-Covid strategy is not going to work.
Instead, bolstered by the miracle of vaccines – and the willingness of the vast majority of people to be immunised – it is time to move towards a world in which we live with the virus.
Recognising this is important as it means that life will not simply ‘return to normal’, as we once hoped, and we must therefore take steps to reinforce the NHS so that it can cope in altered circumstances.
And it is clear that, right now, the NHS is struggling to do that, with Accident and Emergency waiting times hitting the worst level on record and estimates that 36 people died as a result of avoidable delays in the week to March 30 alone. Cancer waiting times are also the worst since records began in 2006.
Tackling the crisis in the health service has to be the priority and that will only be done successfully if we face up to the extent of the pressures it is continuing to face.