NICOLA Sturgeon today told Scots they’ll have to carry on wearing masks “for some time to come” as she ended most lockdown restrictions.
The SNP chief said face coverings will stay in bars, restaurants, and shops – and also in school classrooms at the start of next term.
Addressing the parliament in Edinburgh she said “declaring freedom from or victory over this virus is premature” despite tumbling cases.
New infections peaked in early July but have since plummeted by two-thirds, while numbers of hospitalisations are also falling.
Ms Sturgeon said most remaining legal restrictions will be scrapped next Monday thanks to the success of the vaccine rollout.
All venues will be allowed to reopen and rules on social distancing and the size of gatherings are set for the chop.
But in a split with Boris Johnson she announced that face masks, which have been binned in England, will stay.
She said: “While this move will restore a substantial degree of normality it does not signal the end of the pandemic or the return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck.
“Even as we make this move care and caution will be required. It will continue to be the law that face coverings must be worn in all the same indoor settings as is the case now.
“We will keep this under review, but my expectation is face coverings are likely to be mandated in law for some time to come.”
🔵 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
Masks in schools
The first minister announced schools will keep current Covid measures in place for at least the first six weeks of the Autumn term.
That means teachers and pupils must keep a metre apart at all time, and all students over 12 have to wear masks in the classroom.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I am acutely aware that many, many young people find this really difficult and so it will be kept under review.
“But for now we consider this an important protection for them and for others in the school.”
She expressed hopes the new academic year will see “fewer disruptions and allow a much more normal learning environment for all our young people”.
The SNP leader also announced Scotland will scrap self-isolation for the double-jabbed from Monday – a whole week earlier than England.
But in a departure with No 10 she urged people to carry on working from home and said firms should make “hybrid” working permanent.
Ms Sturgeon warned lockdown restrictions could even be brought back on a local level if there are future outbreaks of the virus.
And she revealed that she is considering the use of vaccine passports domestically for venues like clubs and pubs.
But she added: “We do not underestimate the ethical equity and human rights issues associated with Covid certification.”