However although the final coronavirus restriction in law has been lifted, the Scottish Government is still strongly recommending that people continue to wear face coverings where appropriate as Covid-19 continues to spread.
Meanwhile people without symptoms of the virus are no longer being asked to take regular lateral flow tests as of April 18 as part of changes to the test and protect system.
Free lateral flow devices (LFDs) for twice weekly routine testing are no longer available for the general population.
The Health Secretary has said the Scottish Government is taking the “right decision” as the legal requirement to wear face masks is to be scrapped from Easter Monday onwards.
Speaking on BBC Scotland, Humza Yousaf said the legal restriction could not be kept in place “a minute longer than it has to be”. However, there will still be “very strong guidance” to wear face masks and he has “great faith” in the vast majority of Scots to follow this.
His comments come after the First Minister announced the legal requirement of wearing face coverings in public settings and public transport across Scotland is to end on Easter Monday.
This decision was delayed twice because of record Covid levels and high hospital admissions.
On why Scotland has now reached the point to scrap masks, Mr Yousaf told BBC’s The Sunday Show: “There’s a number of reasons. First and foremost, based on the data, I think we can safely say we’re exiting the current wave and it’s been pretty relentless over the last four to five months given the emergence of Omicron and the emergence of BA2.
“But I think we can say, based on the ONS data, based on the case data, based on now beginning to see reductions in hospital occupancy for those with Covid – although the number for those are still very high – we are taking the right decision by removing that final legal requirement but of course replacing it with very strong guidance.”
A weekly Covid-19 survey produced by the Office for National Statistics found around one in every 17 people in Scotland had Covid-19 in the week up to April 9 had the virus, a drop on recent weeks.
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Following the announcement of scrapping the legal requirement to wear face coverings, the Scottish Government issued guidance for people to continue to wear a face covering in certain situations such as indoor spaces and public transport. However, this will now be down to personal decisions.
Talking about his faith in the public to continue to wear masks when “appropriate”, Mr Yousaf said: “I think the vast majority will.
“There will be some that won’t and we have to accept that that is the case. But you have to remember it’s been made very clear that we can’t keep a legal restriction in place for a minute longer than it has to be and we have to be proportionate when it comes to the law but I’ve got great faith in the vast majority of the Scottish public.”
The testing scheme is also coming to an end as a result of pressures from the UK Government scrapping the programme. This means that people will no longer be able to get free lateral flow tests. Testing will still be made available for those in high risk settings including NHS and care home staff.
Mr Yousaf said, “we are going to have to learn to live with” Covid, adding “but we are doing so in a phased manner.”
The Health secretary said the recovery of the NHS is going to take “years” following the “biggest shock” from the pandemic.
Ways to grow the NHS workforce, including an £18 billion investment for NHS and social care staffing, are being looked at to build back the service, according to the minister.
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