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First Minister announces all Covid legal requirements are set to come to an end

By Scott Maclennan

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

All Covid legal restrictions mandating such requirements as wearing face coverings and contact tracing will come to an end on March 21.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said people would continue to be advised to wear masks and venues could continue contact tracing but it would no longer be compulsory.

The Covid certification scheme requiring certain venues and events to check the vaccine or test status of attendees will be the first to go from next Monday.

The app will remain active but it will be for the venues – such as bars, restaurants and cafes – to decide whether to use it.

The obligation for businesses to retain contact details for contact tracing purposes will draw to a close on March 21 as well.

So too will the legal requirement for businesses, places of worship and service providers to have regard to Scottish Government guidance on Covid and then take reasonably practicable measures.

Making the Holyrood announcement, the First Minister said: "We will be considering advice for schools and health and care workers separately, in line with expert advice. But for the general public, let me set out clearly what this means from now until further notice.

"Firstly, if you have Covid symptoms, you should continue to go for a PCR test.

"Access to these tests will remain free of charge at testing sites across the country. Second, you should continue to make regular use of lateral flow tests even if you don’t have symptoms.

"The only immediate change we are making to current arrangements on lateral flow tests for the general population is in our advice on the frequency of testing.

"Instead of advice to test before going anywhere to mix with others, we will from Monday revert to advice to test at least twice a week and in particular if you are going to a crowded place or mixing with someone who is clinically vulnerable.

"Lateral flow tests will remain free of charge in the transition phase. Indeed, we consider it important, in line with the principle of healthcare free at the point of use - that they should remain free of charge for any circumstance in which government recommends testing.

"I also want to emphasise that in Scotland, for now, we will continue to ask those who test positive for Covid to isolate for the recommended period.

"We will continue to make self isolation support payments available to those who are eligible. We will, of course, keep the recommended period of isolation under review.

"It is worth stressing that isolating when positive with a highly infectious virus – and the follow-up tracing that Test & Protect does – remains one of the most fundamental public health protections that we have available to us."

David Richardson, the FSB’s Highlands and Islands Development Manager, welcomed the confirmation but said 'this is far from the end of the story'.

He commented: “Scotland lost 20,000 of its smallest businesses in a single year of the pandemic, and the hard work begins now to get local economies back on their feet.

"We want Scottish Government Ministers to put the local firms and self-employed people that gave up so much over the past two years at the centre of their recovery plans, and we want local authorities and the Scottish Government to work together to ensure that cash aimed at recovery reaches the real economy.

“Finally, while the future is a closed book as far as new Covid variants are concerned, we’d like decision-makers to recognise the damage this crisis has already done to Scotland’s business community before re-imposing tough restrictions.”

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