Masks could be enforced in Scotland for YEARS, Nicola Sturgeon warns – as she defends 'incredibly damaging' Covid rules
MASKS could be worn in Scotland for years to come, Nicola Sturgeon said – as she defended the country's tough Covid restrictions.
Speaking hours before the rules are relaxed tomorrow, the First Minister said the measures were worth it, in spite of opposition from business chiefs who labelled them "incredibly damaging".
But she said face coverings may be enforced in public for many months to come as they're "a small price to pay".
Asked by the BBC's Sophie Raworth if she foresaw masks being worn for "months or years to come", Ms Sturgeon said: "I hope not.
"I don't want any of these measures to be in place for any longer than is necessary.
"But masks… are something we can do. None of us enjoy wearing them but they are perhaps not the biggest handicap to endure in order to try to stem transmission.
"So while they can make a difference to controlling the virus then I think it is something we should do.
"Again I would suggest that it is England that is the outlier here, not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, or many countries across the world."
From Monday, nightclubs in Scotland can reopen and there will be an end to the three household limit indoors.
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However, masks will still be mandatory in shops and other settings.
In contrast, Boris Johnson has announced restrictions in England – including guidance on masks – will end by March. Plan B will be ditched as the Omicron wave recedes thanks to the UK's world-beating booster roll-out.
And even though restrictions have been tighter in Scotland, Covid is rife throughout the country.
On Saturday, the country recorded 30 deaths – the highest toll since September.
Meanwhile, according to the latest ONS figures, one in 20 people in both England and Scotland had the virus in the most recent data set available.
Asked if the restrictions were "worth it", Ms Stugeon replied: "Yes, I think they were.
"Wales and Northern Ireland were broadly in the same place and took a different approach to England.
'IT WAS WORTH IT'
"If you look at that ONS survey that one in 20 had it in terms of the detail, 5.5 per cent of the population in England had the virus in that week, but it was 4.5 per cent in Scotland.
"That is a difference."
But Ms Raworth interjected: "That's still one in 20."
Ms Sturgeon said: "It's always difficult in any country to absolutely prove cause and effect, but if you look at what was being predicted through modelling, we were on track for 50,000 cases a day.
"We didn't see that materialise, or anything like that number."
She admitted "everybody wants to get back to normality desperately".
"We have learned through bitter experience that the virus is unpredictable," she added.
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The head of UK hospitality in Scotland said Ms Sturgeon's measures were "incredibly damaging" – and businesses have slammed vaccine passports, required for large events and clubs.
Asked by Ms Raworth when the documents will be axed, the politician replied: "Look, I'm not going to sit here and tell you a date because I'd literally be making it up."
But she said she stands by the passports, adding: "The point I'll make again is there would also be big economic consequences if we didn't try to control virus in any way."
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