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OIC welcomes delay on removal of facemask legislation

Date: 17 March 2022

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The Council has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement this week that face masks will still be required to be worn on public transport and most indoor public settings until at least early April.

The legal requirement to wear facemasks had been expected to be dropped on March 21 – but the rising number of COVID cases across Scotland has led to the delay.

However, the remaining legal requirements for businesses and those in hospitality to collect customer details for contract tracing, and to have regard to and take reasonable measures set out in COVID guidance, will end as planned on Monday, March 21.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the legal restrictions to mask wearing will be reviewed again in two weeks, where it is likely to be converted to guidance by April 4.

The First Minister also confirmed that people without COVID-19 symptoms will no longer be asked to take regular lateral flow tests from April 18.

The change forms part of the Test and Protect Transition Plan, which sets out how testing will become more targeted, with the aim of reducing serious harm from COVID-19.

The changes to Test and Protect mean that from April 18:

  • most people without symptoms will no longer be asked to take COVID-19 tests.
  • free lateral flow devices (LFDs) for the purposes of twice-weekly routine testing will no longer be available for the general population but will continue to be free for any purpose for which testing continues to be advised — for clinical care, for health and social care workers and for people visiting vulnerable individuals in care homes or hospitals.
  • until the end of April, people with symptoms should still isolate and get a PCR test.
  • vaccinated close contacts of someone with COVID-19 should continue to test daily for seven days with LFDs.

 

People who have symptoms of COVID-19 will still be able to book PCR tests in the usual way until April 30.

From that date, test sites will close and people with symptoms will no longer be advised that they need to seek a test.

The public health advice for people who feel unwell will be to stay at home until they feel better, to reduce the risk of infecting other people.

A note of caution has been sounded by the Council given Orkney’s transmission rate and significant strain this has posed on a number of services, notably schools, nurseries, and health and care settings.

OIC interim Chief Executive, John Mundell, said: “I recognise that this delay in the removal of the legislation that requires the wearing of face masks on public transport and indoor public places will be a disappointment for some, however ensuring the maximum continued use of face coverings will provide some additional protection — particularly for the most vulnerable — at a time when the risk of infection is very high, and it may help us get over this spike more quickly.

“Given Orkney’s high transmission rates we will still be urging people to wear face coverings for the foreseeable and until we see a significant drop in positive cases. We all still have a responsibility to not only protect one another, but also to protect critical frontline services, some of which are in a very fragile position at present.

“We are all looking forward to the day when life can return to normal, but that day is not yet in Orkney.

“We have come so far, but we must not forget how we have reached this point. There have been 163,000 deaths attributed to this virus in the UK since the pandemic began and many more who live with long COVID. Thanks to the very successful vaccination programme and advanced treatments, the hospitalisation rate has fallen but that does not mean the health risk to some has gone away – people are still losing their lives and becoming very poorly as a result of this virus.

“It is vital that we are careful, and we would urge people to continue to wear face coverings when inside shops, businesses and while on public transport until we are over this precarious point.”

Mr Mundell said it would be a mistake for the Council to simply do away with all mitigating measures given the level of infection.

“When the change in guidance in terms of mask wearing does come, that does not mean a change in risk. The risk remains a constant in Orkney at present.

“To protect our staff, our services and you, our customers, we will be continuing with a number of mitigations such as working from home when possible, distancing as appropriate, the wearing of face coverings while indoors, hand washing and hand sanitising, increased ventilation, encouraging people to open their windows and doors and to meet up outside when possible.

“We recognise that many of you have a great desire to return to complete normality, but there are others who remain anxious. I have a duty of care to everyone and believe it is vital that we do not rush this. We all want this to end, but to end as safely as possible.”

  • Summary:

    The Council has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement this week that face masks will still be required to be worn on public transport and most indoor public settings until at least early April.

    The legal requirement to wear facemasks had been expected to be dropped on March 21 – but the rising number of COVID cases across Scotland has led to the delay.

  • Category:
    Covid-19

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS