Face mask law is now ‘too big a force’ expert tells Nicola Sturgeon

Dr Christine Tait-Burkard backed moving to a situation where the use of face coverings is recommended, rather than being mandatory.

30 March 2022

Maintaining a legal requirement on Scots to wear face masks while on public transport and shopping is now “too big a force”, an infections expert has claimed.

Dr Christine Tait-Burkard said cases of the BA2 Omicron subvariant had peaked about two weeks ago.

And while the number of Scots in hospital with the virus has reached record highs in recent days, she said these figures “look like they are starting to drop”.

In these circumstances she said maintaining the legal requirement on people to wear face coverings in some settings, as Scotland has done, was now “too big a force”.

The Edinburgh University expert told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I think recommendations for people to wear masks in high risk environments is the right course of action, it doesn’t need that legal enforcement any more.”

Her comments came ahead of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing whether the requirement for face coverings can be removed from April 4.

This had been due to be scrapped earlier this month, but Ms Sturgeon changed her approach on this because of the surge in cases resulting from the BA2 subvariant of Omicron.

Dr Tait-Burkard said she was “tentatively optimistic” about the situation in Scotland.

She stated: “We reached the peak of Covid infection around March 15 – the week we had one in 11 people testing positive for Covid.

“And also the hospital admission numbers look like they are starting to drop.

“We have seen over the past six days we have had one of the highest numbers of people in hospital with Covid, around 2,300, but that number has stayed relatively stable which is a good sign that we are on the cusp of going down the other side of the hill.”

Face covering rules are currently the only legal restrictions still in place on in Scotland in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will announce today if face coverings will continue to be a legal requirement (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Sturgeon had previously signalled their use would move from being a legal requirement to being guidance on Monday March 21.

However, she told MSPs on March 15 that with the “current spike” in cases, ministers had agreed it was “prudent” for the measure to remain in place.

While Ms Sturgeon said she knew this would be “disappointing”, she urged people to “be patient for a little while longer”.

New reported cases have fallen since the last announcement, from 10,710 in March 16 to 9,311 on Monday, but the number of people in hospital has risen sharply.

On March 15, 1,996 people in Scotland’s hospitals had a confirmed case of Covid-19, compared to 2,383 on Tuesday, according to Scottish Government figures.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has called on the First Minister to “give up control over people’s lives”.

“She can’t use the higher case rates that she has completely failed to reduce as an excuse to delay or backtrack on lifting the remaining restrictions,” he said.

“We have now been living under some form of legal Covid restrictions for over two years. Nicola Sturgeon must now start to trust the Scottish public to keep themselves safe.

“Despite their overly cautious approach, the SNP’s Covid strategy has failed. Scotland’s infection rates have been significantly higher than England’s for several weeks.

“All the SNP have achieved with their dithering and delays is to prolong the hardship of the public and businesses.

“Nicola Sturgeon cannot keep Scotland in Covid restrictions forever. It’s time we got back to normality.”

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