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Wearing face masks recommended in shops and on public transport

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The Scottish Government has recommended wearing face masks in public in “limited circumstances”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the change in policy at her daily briefing giving updates on the Covid-19 response.

A total of 1,332 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 70 from 1,262 on Monday, the First Minister said.

She said 10,721 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 200 from 10,521 the day before.

There are 126 people in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms and 1,754 people are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

Ms Sturgeon added 2,448 people who tested positive for coronavirus have now been able to leave hospital.

She said the Scottish Government is not recommending the use of face masks for children under the age of two.

The First Minister added: “We are recommending that you do wear a cloth face covering if you are in an enclosed space with others where social distancing is difficult, for example public transport or in a shop.”

The policy appears to contradict earlier advice from Scotland’s national clinical director.

Professor Jason Leitch said on April 3: “The global evidence – and we’ve looked properly, I promise you – is that masks in the general population don’t work.

To be clear, the benefit comes mainly in cases where someone might have the virus but isn’t aware of that
Nicola Sturgeon

“People don’t wear them properly, they’re hard, they’re difficult, they’re uncomfortable.”

Ms Sturgeon said the new guidance is related to “face coverings made of cloth or other textiles, such as a scarf” and not medical-grade masks.

She said: “The guidance we are publishing today firstly makes clear the most important step we can all take to prevent transmission of the virus is to comply with the current stay at home social distancing and hygiene rules.”

The First Minister said face coverings are “not a substitute for that”, adding the evidence on their use is “still limited”.

But she said the guidance “recognises there maybe some benefit in wearing a face covering if you leave the house and enter an enclosed space where you will come into contact with multiple people and safe social distancing is difficult, for example on public transport or in shops”.

With most shops closed at the moment, Ms Sturgeon said this will apply “in particular” to food shops.

“To be clear, the benefit comes mainly in cases where someone might have the virus but isn’t aware of that because they are not experiencing any symptoms,” she said.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“Wearing a face covering in these circumstances may reduce the chance of that person transmitting the virus on to others.

“So the Scottish Government is now recommending the use of face coverings in these limited circumstances, as a precautionary measure”.

She said because the evidence is “at this stage relatively weak” it is not mandatory to do so.

Ms Sturgeon also announced an expansion of the testing regime for coronavirus.

Health boards will now test everyone aged over 70 who is admitted to hospital, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

In addition to this, they will be tested every four days throughout their stay in hospital, she said.

“This will help us identify if the virus is being transmitted throughout a hospital,” the First Minister added.

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