Face coverings are to be compulsory in Scottish shops from the end of next week, as physical distancing is relaxed in retail and hospitality sectors as well as public transport.
Nicola Sturgeon said failure by shoppers to cover their faces could result in a £60 fixed-penalty fine as she announced further easing of anti-coronavirus measures to come into force on July 10.
Her announcement also included more immediate changes to the guidance, which will give children more chance to play with each other during the summer holidays and to allow them to hug their grandparents.
Mandatory face coverings in shops
“Face coverings in shops will be compulsory from the end of next week but, please, don’t wait until then, get into the habit now,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“As we all start to interact more, it is vital we take all reasonable steps to reduce risk and we know that face coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission indoors.”
The changes were announced at the first minister’s daily coronavirus briefing where Ms Sturgeon said there had been one Covid-19 death in the last 24 hours and estimated that there were now only 1,500 infectious people north of the border.
📺 Watch live: First Minister @NicolaSturgeon holds a press conference on #coronavirus (#COVIDー19).
Joining the First Minister today is Scotland’s Interim Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith and National Clinical Director Jason Leitch.
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) July 2, 2020
Social distancing to be relaxed in retail, hospitality and public transport
Ms Sturgeon said that two-metre physical distancing would remain the “benchmark” for the Scottish Government’s test and protection system but said there would be exceptions where it could be reduced to one metre.
The exceptions will be retail and hospitality sectors as well as transport – including island ferries – where the guidance will be reduced to one metre when phase three of the route map out of lockdown comes into force on July 10.
“While sticking to two metres has clear benefits it also has serious economic implications, and an adverse economic impact we know can in turn have an effect on people’s health and wellbeing,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“For those reasons, when we enter phase three of the route map, which I hope will be the end of next week, we will allow exemptions for specific sectors where agreed mitigations must be put in place.”
For physical distancing to be reduced businesses will have to install other measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as increased ventilation, Perspex screens, regulation of customer flow and new seating plans.
More chances for children to play with their friends
Before then, though, non-shielding children aged 11 and under will be excused physical distancing when they are with other children and adults outdoors from July 3. Those aged between 12 and 17 will have to abide by the two-metre rule and stick to the limit of meeting eight people outdoors from no more than three households at any one time. But there will be no limit on the number of those meetings they can have in any one day. Organised contact sports for children will resume from July 13.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said children with asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and kidney disease may no longer need to shield, subject to discussions with their doctor.
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed the five-mile travel restriction will be lifted from July 3, apart from in areas of Dumfries and Galloway where health officials are dealing with a cross-border cluster of 10 cases, which may have originated in a hospital in Carlisle.
The first minister also confirmed that outdoor hospitality enterprises like beer gardens would reopen on July 6 with indoor areas of pubs and restaurants in line for a July 15 return to business.
Business groups welcomed the easing of restrictions, saying they were needed to prevent more job losses.
Andrew McRae, Federation of Small Business Scotland policy chairman, said: “This is another welcome step along the road to freeing us from lockdown and getting the country back to business.
“There’s a real need, if we’re to stem the tide of rising job losses and avoid long-term damage, to get as much of the economy up and running as quickly and safely as possible.
“There is a lot in this announcement and it is complicated – particularly around the two-metre rule – so it will be crucial that the businesses who will be in charge of implementing the new rules are given clear guidance on the rules and their practical application.”
Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw described Ms Sturgeon’s announcement as a “reasonable approach” that would “maintain public health while easing the restrictions that would have made it impossible for many hospitality and retail businesses to operate”.
He added: “While no-one wants to see the need for social distancing, or indeed other mitigations like face coverings, to last longer than necessary, we believe the measures announced today strike a proportionate balance.”