Scottish government recommends covering face in shops
Scottish government has recommended people cover their faces while in some enclosed public spaces, such as shops and public transport.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there could be “some benefit” in wearing a cloth face covering in places where social distancing was difficult. Although she said it was “not a substitute” for existing lockdown restrictions.
Downing Street said UK ministers were considering the scientific evidence for introducing similar advice. The prime minister’s official spokesman said a review had been carried out by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), adding: “Once a decision has been reached then we’ll announce it publicly.”
The Scottish government guidance is not mandatory and will not be enforced by the authorities.
Ms Sturgeon stressed that the advice related to cloth garments such as a scarf rather than “medical grade facemasks” like those used by health and care workers. The first minister said evidence about the usefulness of face coverings was “limited”, but that there may be “some benefit in wearing a face covering if you enter an enclosed space where you will come into contract with multiple people and safe social distancing is difficult”.
She said: “To be clear, the benefit comes mainly in cases where someone might have the virus but is not aware of that because they are not experiencing symptoms and thus not isolating completely.
Wearing a face covering in those circumstances may reduce the risk of that person transmitting the virus to others.”
Ms Sturgeon said there was no evidence to suggest that wearing a face covering outdoors was of any benefit.
The first minister warned that she did not want people to “think they are invincible” while covering their face in enclosed spaces such as shops.
She said: “It may do some good in limited circumstances, but it cannot and should not be seen as a substitute for the other rules and guidelines.”
The government advice says face coverings should not be used by people with asthma or children under the age of two.
It adds: “When applying or removing the covering, it is important that you wash your hands first and avoid touching your face.
“After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade or dispose of it safely.”
The guidance also says that it is “not being made mandatory and will not be enforced at this stage” due to the “relatively weak” evidence of the impact of face coverings on transmission of the virus.
However, Ms Sturgeon said this would be kept under review as the government considers how to ease lockdown restrictions.