Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that the use of covid vaccine passports and mandatory face coverings is to be changed has drawn a mixed reaction.
The prime minister outlined a new strategic framework for the country in her statement on Tuesday, which moves away from using restrictions to suppress the virus.
The focus will instead be on vaccination, treatment and “good public behavior”.
Assuming there are no “significant adverse developments” in the evolution of the virus, the covid certification system which requires certain venues and events to verify the status of participants’ vaccines or tests, will end on 28 February.
Following this, the legal requirement to wear a face covering in certain indoor public places and on public transport will be lifted on March 21.
On this date, the legal obligation for companies, places of worship and service providers to limit the spread of the virus as much as possible will also be removed.
The prime minister said the government had a “duty” to remove restrictions imposed by law as the situation surrounding the virus improves.
She added: “However, this should not be taken as a signal that covid no longer poses any health risk. It clearly does. So while some measures, for example face coverings, may not not be legal requirements going forward, we will continue to recommend voluntary compliance as part of the range of behaviors that will help keep us safe as we manage covid in a more sustainable and less restrictive way.”
In light of the news, organizations working with those at high risk of serious illness from covid say they have been left behind.
Charity Antony Nolan has called for face masks to continue to be mandatory to protect immunocompromised people.
Henny Braund MBE, chief executive of the charity, said: “People with blood cancer and stem cell transplant patients are still extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and are less likely to be protected by vaccines than the general population. Many will feel particularly anxious about the continued easing of restrictions
“We urge the Scottish Government to keep face masks compulsory as they have been shown to reduce the transmission of the virus. We are also calling for a government official dedicated to immunocompromised people, to prioritize clear guidance and support to prevent blood cancer patients from being left behind.
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Meanwhile, the changes have been welcomed by the hospitality industry – many of whom say they don’t go far enough and should be introduced sooner.
Colin Wilkinson, chief executive of the SLTA, commented: “Stopping covid passports is good news for hospitality businesses, especially the nightlife sector where restrictions over the past two years have had such a severe impact. .
“However, the legal requirement to wear face coverings in indoor hospitality and other settings for an additional month is not the news we wanted to hear from the Prime Minister today at a time when our sector needs more positivity and confidence – confidence that will encourage customers to start dating again.
“There is still a very, very long and difficult struggle for many hospitality businesses with ongoing issues to overcome and a responsibility for the Scottish Government to support our industry which is key to the economy and jobs.”
Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, added: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s new policy framework and the decision to downgrade the remaining general restrictions to guidelines in the coming weeks, and we will now take the time to digest its contents.
“Scottish Hospitality Group has always campaigned for the removal of unnecessary burdens from our industry and today is an important step in the right direction.
“In particular, we welcome the end of the covid and test and protect passport scheme, which imposes a heavy bureaucratic burden on hospitality venues with little beneficial effect on the health protection of our guests.
“There are a number of details that will require further thought and consultation, and we would have liked to see a clearer and faster transition to the end of restrictions and the mandatory use of masks, as keeping them for a month extra does nothing to rebuild consumer confidence.”
What do you think of the upcoming rule changes? Have your say in the comments below.