Nicola Sturgeon keeps Scotland’s mask law in place as she confirms Monday end to lockdown

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Nicola Sturgeon defied Boris Johnson today by keeping masks mandatory in Scotland even after the country’s lockdown ends on July 19.

The SNP leader confirmed restrictions north of the border will be lowered to ‘Level 0’ from Monday as planned.

But in a virtual appearance at Holyrood she said her roadmap would include some modifications. 

‘This is intended to ensure that our pace of easing restrictions is sensible in light of the challenge we continue to face from the Delta variant,’ she said.

‘And I will confirm that certain mitigations – such as the mandatory wearing of face coverings – will remain in place, not just now but, in all likelihood, for some time to come.

‘Measures like the continued wearing of face coverings are important, not just to give added protection to the population as a whole, but also to give protection and assurance to those amongst us who are particularly vulnerable and previously had to shield.’ 

As well as masks she confirmed that a gradual end to working from home was being postponed until August 9 at the earliest.

But from Monday, weddings and funerals can go ahead with up to 200 guests, and pubs and restaurants will no longer be pre-book only.

There will still be some restrictions on other public gatherings, with eight people from up to four households indoors at home – 10 people from up to four households in pubs or restaurants and 15 people from up to 15 households outdoors.

Ms Sturgeon has already made clear that face coverings will continue, swiping at Boris Johnson ‘throwing caution to the wind’ by making them optional in England and insisting she will put safety above ‘popularity’.  

The PM declared last night that ‘Freedom Day’ will go ahead in England on schedule next Monday, with almost all legal restrictions axed despite the surge caused by the Delta variant. 

However, he did plead with people in England to be cautious, with guidance saying they are ‘expected and recommended’ to wear masks in crowded places.

The SNP leader said rules on wearing masks indoors in Scotland would stay in place ‘not just now but in all likelihood for some time to come’

The PM declared last night that 'Freedom Day' will go ahead in England on schedule next Monday, with almost all legal restrictions axed despite the surge caused by the Delta variant.

The PM declared last night that 'Freedom Day' will go ahead in England on schedule next Monday, with almost all legal restrictions axed despite the surge caused by the Delta variant.

The PM declared last night that ‘Freedom Day’ will go ahead in England on schedule next Monday, with almost all legal restrictions axed despite the surge caused by the Delta variant.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the SNP Government had to stick to the route map by easing restrictions on July 19. 

He said the public were fed up with uncertainty and that going back on a pledge to end lockdown on August 9 could also backfire.

Mr Ross said: ‘The SNP cannot stall Scotland’s progress any longer. We have to keep moving forward and that means moving Scotland to Level 0 next week.’

Professor of public health at Edinburgh University Linda Bauld told BBC radio’s Good Morning Scotland: ‘What I’m expecting to hear from the information I have that’s publicly available, is we will proceed to Level 0 on July 19.

‘The situation, although still fragile, does seem to be showing some signs of being certainly sustainable, as in we’re able to cope with it.

‘We may well be past the peak… I’m hoping what we’re seeing is a consistent trend.

‘What the Scottish Government will want to avoid is what is happening in Europe now.

‘The Netherlands has seen an over 700 per cent increase in cases. They’ve had to close nightclubs again, put restrictions on bars and restaurants, they’ve had to cancel mass events.

‘I think the Scottish Government will want to continue to move forward, but Level 0 is not a huge jump, it’s a relatively modest jump to the next stage.’

At a briefing last week, Ms Sturgeon warned ‘we cannot simply throw all caution to the wind and no longer worry at all about rising levels of infection’, citing concerns about pressures on the NHS which have already led to some services being cut back.

She also said the majority of cases are in young people and although they tend to have less severe infections, it would be ‘wrong and irresponsible, because our young people are not guinea pigs, to have no concern at all for young people infected with this virus’.

Ms Sturgeon said she hoped all of Scotland will be able to move to ‘Level 0’ restrictions by July 19 as planned. But that meant ‘baseline’ restrictions such as masks, rather than a total unlocking.  

The PM declared last night that 'Freedom Day' will go ahead on schedule next Monday, with almost all legal restrictions axed despite the surge caused by the Delta variant

The PM declared last night that 'Freedom Day' will go ahead on schedule next Monday, with almost all legal restrictions axed despite the surge caused by the Delta variant

The PM declared last night that ‘Freedom Day’ will go ahead on schedule next Monday, with almost all legal restrictions axed despite the surge caused by the Delta variant

She said: ‘It is worth pointing out the path the UK Government is embarking on for England – which is entirely a matter for them – a path of not just lifting all restrictions from July 19 but also removing the requirement for basic mitigations like face masks, and doing so against the backdrop of sharply increasing case numbers, is something of an exception.

‘While I totally understood the desire some have for us to follow suit in every single step, we have to think carefully about the steps we do take at this juncture.

‘My job is not to take the easy decisions in a quest for popularity, it is to do what I think is most likely to keep the country as safe as possible as we get to the end of the vaccination programme.

‘Over the next few weeks, as we complete the vaccination programme, it is really important that we don’t let the virus outrun us.’ 

Ms Sturgeon said Scots getting confused by the messages from England ‘has always been a worry’ – saying it was one of the main reasons she did daily TV briefings earlier in the pandemic. 

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