Coronavirus: What could you use as a face covering?

The Scottish Government advice on wearing face coverings in public explained.

Advice: Scottish Government recommends people wear face coverings in shops or on public transport.
Advice: Scottish Government recommends people wear face coverings in shops or on public transport.

The First Minister has revealed Scottish Government guidance recommending people wear a face covering if they are “in an enclosed space where social distancing is difficult”.

The latest advice – which is not mandatory and importantly not a substitute for physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene – was shared by Nicola Sturgeon at Tuesday’s press briefing.

“We are recommending that you do wear a cloth face covering if you are in an enclosed space with others where social distancing is difficult,” Sturgeon explained.

But what exactly does the Government’s guidance say?

What qualifies as a ‘face covering’


In its official advice, the Scottish Government has clarified it does not mean a medical mask but something that will cover your mouth and nose. A scarf has been used as an example.

The guidance states: “By face coverings we do not mean the wearing of a surgical or other medical grade mask but a facial covering of the mouth and nose, that is made of cloth or other textiles and through which you can breathe, for example a scarf.”

Where to wear a covering

An enclosed space, where social distancing is particularly difficult.

This amounts to situations such as when you’re travelling on public transport or when you’re doing the food shop and it’s not always possible to maintain a two-metre distance from someone else.


However, the Scottish Government has said there is no evidence to suggest there might be a benefit outdoors – unless in an unavoidable crowded situation.

Putting on and washing the covering

The First Minister established quite clearly that a covering is not a substitute for good hygiene.

“What I don’t want is people thinking they are invincible to this virus because they are wearing a face covering,” Sturgeon said.

So we know it’s not a substitute but the Government has also stressed that hygiene needs to be maintained when you are putting one on.

The guidance adds: “When applying or removing the covering, it is important that you wash your hands first and avoid touching your face.

“After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade or dispose of safely.”

Not for children under two

The final advice covers a safety issue. Face coverings should not be used for children under the age of two, the Government has said.

More on:

Swinney: We want students to be able to go home for Christmas

The education secretary said getting students home to their families at Christmas is 'at the heart of our thinking'.

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Campuses: Outbreaks among students around the country.

The education secretary has insisted the Scottish Government’s aim is for students to be able to return home this Christmas.

John Swinney said ensuring the safe return of students to their families for the festive season is “at the heart of our thinking” amid surging coronavirus cases on university campuses.

But this weekend, he urged students – even those who test negative for Covid-19 – to socialise only within their households and not to go out.

Speaking to the BBC, Swinney said students staying in accommodation would minimise Covid’s spread to other parts of the country.


Reports on Sunday claimed that some living in halls of residence had returned to their family home due to the circumstances.

The education secretary said: “Our advice to students is that they should stay in their halls if they are able to do so and that’s to ensure that we minimise the spread of the virus around the country.

“It’s important that any student that is self-isolating or students in general in the situation that they are facing are given the full and proper support of the college or the university that is supporting them, and that’s an issue that we’ve prioritised in our discussions with universities in the course of the past few days.”

Looking ahead, Swinney said getting students home for Christmas is a “really important” part of the government’s considerations.


He said: “It’s a bit of time away (Christmas), but it’s an absolute priority for the Scottish Government that first and foremost students are safe and are supported and are able to participate in their education.

“We also want to make sure that students are supported in every aspect of their wellbeing and crucially being able to get back home to families at Christmas time is a really important part of that work and that’s very much at the heart of our thinking.”

On Saturday, Glasgow University announced an increase in the support it would offer students in accommodation, including a refund of one month’s rent and a £50 food payment.

Asked if the Scottish Government would consider funding institutions across the country to bring in similar measures, the education secretary said they would consider any issues raised by universities principals.

Swinney added: “Glasgow University has taken what I think is a bold and very appropriate move in the course of the last 24 hours.”

What is going on with coronavirus cases and tests?

Recent Covid-19 case numbers in Scotland have been higher than ever.

Coronavirus: Testing has gradually ramped up over the months.

Recent daily coronavirus case figures in Scotland have not made for pleasant reading.

Looking at the hard numbers, it would appear as though the country’s Covid-19 epidemic is spreading worse than ever.

Three days so far this week saw new records set for the most coronavirus cases reported in a 24-hour period – 486 on Wednesday, 558 on Friday and 714 on Saturday.

Faced with this barrage of numbers every day, numbers which are so often now very large, it can be hard for the public to know what to make of them and to place them in context.


A major part of that context is Covid-19 testing – and if cases have risen in recent weeks and months, then so have daily tests, and in a very substantial way.

None of this is simple and these days the Scottish Government’s publicly-available spreadsheets on the epidemic are plastered with notes, caveats and revisions.

Making sense of it, thankfully, is possible.

A brief history of testing

When the pandemic first began in the UK in late February to March, the country did not have the capacity for mass testing and tracing that other nations either had ready or quickly built up.


Perhaps the UK, and Scotland by extension, could have built up that capacity rapidly as others did – but on March 12, we decided not to.

It was felt the coronavirus outbreak had already spread too widely in the community by then for the conventional public health approach of testing, tracing and isolating all cases to work.

Scotland ‘should have continued mass testing in March’ Read now

At the time, unlike now, people with symptoms were simply told to stay home for seven days to try to get better.

Generally speaking, only those whose condition deteriorated to the point of needing hospital treatment were tested.

This meant that as Scotland’s epidemic peaked during the month of April, in fact the country was only testing an average of about 1300 people per day – and sometimes considerably less.

That’s peanuts compared to the figures posted most days now.

Meanwhile, the Scottish and UK governments were building up their testing capacities, albeit not as quickly as some would have liked.


Their chief weapon was the new UK Government-managed regional testing network, with Scottish centres predominantly based at the country’s airports.

But this separate branch of testing data caused all sorts of havoc for those updating the Scottish Government’s spreadsheets, with huge gluts of test results dumped on them in mid-June which dated back months.

And then again, in early July, a whole tranche of backlogged data related to home testing kits and care home tests was belatedly added to the daily totals, meaning test figures in Scotland suddenly skyrocketed.

Since then, we’ve been consistently looking at far higher testing numbers than at any previous point in the pandemic.

Testing has fallen back but remains relatively high. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

They peaked in late August and early September, with the country seeing nearly 30,000 tests carried out on a number of days, testing around 16,000 Scots each time.

Since then, however, those figures have fallen back quite a bit, to an average of around 17,000 daily tests in September – or about 7400 people tested per day.

The difference between daily tests and newly-tested people is to do with the amount of individuals who are being repeat-tested, for example, care home workers.

The reasons for the drop-off in testing in recent weeks – given the government’s insistence it is pressing ahead in boosting capacity – aren’t entirely clear, but could be to do with problems the UK test booking portal has been having in meeting rising demand.

But nonetheless, the ramping-up of testing over time is unmistakeable in the statistics.

About 14% of Scots have now been tested for Covid. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

On August 4, fewer than 375,000 people in Scotland had been tested for coronavirus.

As of Friday, three quarters of a million Scots (about 14% of the population) have been tested – doubling the figure in just seven weeks.

The positivity rate

As that first testing graph above showed, total tests conducted as well as the number of people tested can vary quite dramatically day-to-day.

Nicola Sturgeon says she now looks first each morning at a different measure to gauge Covid’s prevalence in Scotland: the positivity rate.

This relates to the percentage of positive tests compared to the number of newly-tested people.

US president Donald Trump, with his tendency to say the quiet part out loud, once said he wanted to see less testing in America because it would catch fewer cases.

But the flipside of that is, if you’re testing a lot less but still finding a lot of cases, your positivity rate is going to go through the roof.

For example, when Scotland was still conducting only limited testing on April 18, and it saw 411 positive tests out of just 1596 people tested, the positivity rate was an eye-watering 26%.

Cases were a much higher proportion of overall tests back in April. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

That’s why looking at the positivity measure is only useful if you have robust and consistent testing in place which aims to catch all suspected cases.

Provided such a system is in place, the World Health Organisation says a country is broadly keeping its epidemic under control if its positivity rate is under 5%.

Even when cases began to rise again in August, starting with the Aberdeen pubs cluster, Scotland’s positivity rate was keeping comfortably in the ballpark of 1%.

But that has started to change and change quickly in September as new outbreaks in the west of Scotland and around universities have gathered pace.

Scotland’s positivity rate keeps rising. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

Last Saturday (September 19), the rate hit 5.3% and it has kept jumping all this week to reach 11.5% as of this Saturday.

That, as much if not more than the hard case numbers, will be of great concern to the First Minister and her advisers.

Second wave, or did it ever really go away?

Despite cases rising again in Scotland, the UK and indeed Europe after a spell where infections had been falling, some scientists are resistant to using the phrase a “second wave”.

A second wave, they argue, is when a virus returns, having perhaps mutated into a new strain.

The first wave of Covid-19, it is argued, never really left – we simply had it under lockdown along with the rest of us.

On first glance, this daily cases graph would suggest we’re dealing with a second wave, or a second spike, or whatever you want to call it, that is spreading more virulently than the first.

Cases have soared in September. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

But the truth is, it’s far too early to say that with any certainty.

For starters, comparing September to April, we’re testing nearly six times more people on average than we did then.

It stands to reason that at the peak of the first wave of coronavirus in Scotland, we were missing hundreds, perhaps thousands of daily cases due to the more limited testing regime.

And at the spring peak, it is believed the R number of Covid-19 in Scotland – the number of people each infected person was infecting – could have been anything from four to as high as six.

At the moment, the government estimates the R number in Scotland is between 1.2 and 1.6.

Anything above one is grounds for concern, because it means the epidemic is growing rather than shrinking.

But it indicates officials do not – yet – think the virus is spreading in quite the same exponential way as it was five or six months ago.

Shoplifters ‘exploiting mandatory masks’ to raid stores

Retail crime experts say shops are being hit harder than ever by theft.

Rogues gallery: Some of the masked suspects being circulated by Retailers Against Crime.

Retail crime experts are warning of a rise in shoplifters exploiting the compulsory use of masks during the pandemic.

Maxine Fraser of Retailers Against Crime (RAC) says that shops, which have suffered a drop in sales, are being hit harder than ever by theft.

She told STV News: “Obviously we understand the need for everyone to wear masks but it is adding to the difficulties in identifying those who steal.

“These are often sophisticated gangs of criminals who travel across the country.


“They have been quick to take advantage of face coverings to make their lives easier and the lives of shop and security workers harder.”

Stirling-based RAC has around 1500 retailer members across Scotland, Northern Ireland and north west England.

Some of the suspected shoplifters have been described as ‘violent’.

They receive and share information about shoplifters and other criminals such as credit card fraudsters.

A page from the organisation’s most recent “identification sought gallery” document, shared with STV News, shows unknown masked suspects, some of whom are described as violent.


Ms Fraser said that some criminals continually change masks in order to make identification eve more difficult.

She added: “These businesses are trying to protect their staff in the most challenging of economic circumstances and now they also have this to deal with.

“The criminal justice system needs to step up and ensure there is a meaningful deterrent.”

Jim McFedries, RAC chairman and head of profit protection at Scotmid Co-Op, said: “I have seen first-hand how this has impacted our front line colleagues and shrinkage.

“Both opportunist and prolific offenders have taken advantage of masks wearing to conceal their identity, disguising themselves at a time when our front line colleagues are thin on the ground and someone wearing a mask is the ‘new norm’.”

The number of reported crimes by RAC members in March was 742. Following lockdown, that dropped to 394 in April but in July it was 859 with 994 reported in August.

RAC also warns about an uplift in threats and violence towards workers.


Mr McFedries added: “We have had an increase in violence towards colleagues ranging from verbal abuse to actual physical violence in a bid to get away with stock in hand.”

The British Retail Consortium reported in March that total losses to retail crime in 2019 rose to £1bn with customer theft accounting for more than 75% of the total.

Mother suing NHS board over daughter’s death at super-hospital

Milly Main died in 2017 aged 10 at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital after contracting an infection.

Milly, pictured with mum Kimberly, was in remission from leukaemia.

The mother of a child who died in a flagship hospital is seeking compensation from the health board.

Kimberly Darroch, whose 10-year-old daughter Milly Main died in 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in Glasgow after contracting an infection, has launched legal action against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Ms Darroch believes that Milly, who was recovering from leukaemia treatment, died as a result of contaminated water at the £842m hospital.

However, an independent review published in June found there were no avoidable deaths caused by the design and maintenance of the building.


Ms Darroch told the Scottish Sun on Sunday: “We still feel in the dark about what happened to our beloved daughter.

“It’s incredibly painful to relive our ordeal, but we are determined to deliver justice for Milly and answers for all affected patients and parents.

“Our hope is that by taking action we can ensure no other family ever has to go through what we did.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “We continue to offer our sympathies to Milly Main’s family for their loss.


“We remain keen to meet with Milly’s family and we would be happy to arrange this if they would like to discuss Milly’s care.”

An inquiry was launched by health secretary Jeane Freeman last year after the deaths of two adults and a child from infections at the hospital.

The investigation started last month and is chaired by Lord Brodie.

Delays to the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh will also be scrutinised, after Freeman stepped in to halt the move of patients between sites over fears around the ventilation system.

Teenage cyclist in critical condition after being hit by car

The 17-year-old boy was rushed to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow following the crash.

Cyclist: Teen rushed to hospital following crash.

A teenage cyclist is in a critical condition after being hit by a car in Hamilton.

The incident occurred around 10.40pm on Saturday on Motherwell Road, near Palace Grounds Road. 

A green Fiat 500 was involved in a collision with a cyclist who was riding a black mountain bike.

The car stopped and emergency services were called. 


The 17-year-old male cyclist is currently in a critical condition at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

Sergeant Craig McDonald, of Road Policing, said: “We’re appealing to anyone who might’ve witnessed this incident or noticed the cyclist or green Fiat 500 shortly before the incident happened.

“I’d also ask drivers who were in that area around 10.40pm on Saturday to check their dashcam footage.”

Anyone with any information should contact Police Scotland on 101 quoting incident number 4491 of September 26 2020.

Coronavirus cases linked to Dundee student halls rise to 52

Further infections confirmed at Parker House and Abertay University's Meadowside Hall.

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Parker House: Cases at accommodation rise to 49.

The number of coronavirus cases linked to student halls in Dundee has risen to 52.

Contact tracing at Parker House, a private student accommodation, is ongoing with all 500 residents continuing to self-isolate.

Confirmed infections there have risen to 49 after a single Abertay University student initially tested positive.

Parker House residents began self-isolating on Wednesday and could have to quarantine for a fortnight.


However, the self-isolation time may be reduced for some students dependent on their Covid test results.

NHS Tayside warned the number of positive cases linked to the accommodation is expected to rise as test results continue to come back.

Meanwhile, Abertay’s Meadowside Hall residence, which houses 69 students, has now had three Covid-19 cases confirmed.

Close contacts of the three cases are being contacted and provided with appropriate advice and will be supported if they have to self-isolate.


Meadowside Hall residents have not yet been told to self-isolate en masse although testing kits have been delivered to them.

All university and college campuses and all other student accommodation and halls of residence in Dundee remain open.

Local public health officials are also investigating “a number” of coronavirus cases linked to the city’s Captain’s Cabin pub.


Posted by Captain's Cabin on Thursday, September 24, 2020

The venue has closed voluntarily to undergo deep cleaning and all staff have been recommended to book a test.

Contact tracing of the positive cases continues with those identified as close contacts by Test and Protect told to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

Anyone who has visited Captain’s Cabin over the last week should watch out for Covid symptoms and should self-isolate and get a test if any symptoms develop, officials said.

NHS Tayside’s associate director of public health Dr Daniel Chandler, who is heading up the incident management team, said: “We are continuing to work closely with our colleagues to monitor this ongoing situation and to ensure there is support in place for students should they need it.


“There have been no reports of positive cases experiencing serious illness or complications.”

He added: “We are expecting an increase in the number of students moving to the local area this weekend ahead of starting their courses, and our university and college colleagues have put in place a number of measures to help protect the student population and to limit the spread of the virus.

“We understand that this is an anxious time and I would like to reassure for students and their loved ones that welfare support and advice is in place for anyone who requires support at this time.

“I would like to again thank residents of Parker House and Meadowside for their continued support and understanding, and to reaffirm how much of a contribution to the overall effort towards slowing and stopping the spread of Covid-19 they are making by following all the precautions.”

Coronavirus: Scotland records 714 new cases overnight

That's 11.5% of newly-tested Scots, the highest positive percentage since the summer.

Coronavirus: No new deaths but more than 700 cases.

Scotland has recorded 714 new cases of coronavirus, the biggest single-day jump on record.

It amounts to 11.5% of newly-tested individuals, up from 9.5% on Friday and the highest proportion of positive tests since the government began publishing the data in July.

The World Health Organisation says countries who keep that percentage under 5% generally have their epidemic under control.

Scotland’s has not been under 5% since September 18 as Covid-19 infections have surged.


No new deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours, but six coronavirus patients have died so far this week.

Of Saturday’s new infections, 290 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 123 are in Lothian, 91 are in Lanarkshire and 76 are in Tayside.

It comes amid major campus outbreaks at the University of Glasgow and Napier University in Edinburgh.

This weekend, all students around Scotland are barred from pubs and restaurants and from socialising outside their household in emergency measures to stem the tide of cases.


While the 714 new cases are the most ever recorded in Scotland, the country has greatly expanded its testing regime since the virus first peaked in the spring.

Responding to the figures, Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “This is our biggest daily tally of cases so far.

“Important therefore to start with some caveats. We are doing much more testing now than in spring.

“These figures are impacted by university clusters. And Test & Protect is working hard and well.”

But the First Minister added: “We have absolutely no room for complacency – on the contrary.

“Cases are rising across Scotland, as in other countries.

“The number of people in hospital (99 today) has doubled in last couple of weeks.


“And we can only beat Covid back together – we must all play our part.

“So, please, for now, stay out of each other’s houses; stick to the 6/2 rule outdoors and in indoor public places; download; and follow FACTS.

“We will get through this – but only if we all act to protect ourselves and each other. Let’s stick with it.”

A total of 99 people are in hospital with Covid, a rise of ten in the last day.

The figure of 11 patients in intensive care with the virus is unchanged on yesterday.

Last week, fresh restrictions were imposed on Scotland limiting social gatherings to no more than six adults from a maximum of two households.

This week, as cases soared, a Scotland-wide ban on visiting or hosting people from other households at home was implemented.

The Scottish Government’s FACTS public health message stands for:

  • Face coverings in enclosed spaces
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Clean your hands and surfaces regularly
  • Two-metre social distancing
  • Self-isolate and book a test if you develop coronavirus symptoms

More than 1.25 million Scots have now downloaded the confidential Protect Scotland contact tracing app, which uses bluetooth technology to notify users if they have been in contact with a Covid-infected person.

That’s nearly 28% of Scotland’s adult population.

Leonard: Student restrictions could contravene human rights

The Scottish Labour leader has written to the Scottish Human Rights Commission over the issue.

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Leonard: Scottish Labour leader concerned about students human rights.

A human rights body has been urged by the leader of Scottish Labour to investigate possible breaches against students.

Universities have seen a spike in coronavirus cases in recent days, with hundreds of students forced to self-isolate in their accommodation.

Universities Scotland and the Scottish Government asked all students to avoid hospitality businesses this weekend in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19.

In a letter to the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Richard Leonard called on the body to investigate seven separate areas of concern, including visits to hospitality, ambiguity in enforcement, the suitability of student halls and differences between rules for them and the public.


The ban on socialising outside their household, the requirement to download the Test and Protect tracing app and a lack of acknowledgement that some students are 17 years old were also raised by the Labour leader.

While accepting the pandemic has forced a change to how people live their lives in Scotland, Mr Leonard said: “In asking the public to make further sacrifices, the Scottish Government also has a reciprocal duty to do what it can to protect against the virus. This means ensuring that the same mistakes made at the start of the pandemic are not repeated.

“Recently, concerns related specifically to the freedom of students studying in Scotland have been reported.

“Given the severity of the matter, I encourage the Scottish Human Rights Commission to conduct an urgent examination into whether the announcements made by the Scottish Government regarding students contravenes human rights law.”


On Friday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would support universities expelling students “as a last resort” if they “flagrantly” breach rules.

The decisions have caused uproar among students and prompted Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson to raise fears over the mental health of students.

Mr Leonard added: “The issues facing students that I have detailed were therefore arguably preventable, and University and College Union have even questioned the motivation in bringing students back onto campuses, highlighting that student accommodation ‘provides important commercial income for universities’ and ‘cross subsidies teaching’.

“While the situation within universities is still developing, I am concerned that it may continue for some time, especially due to the nature of the communal living arrangements in much student accommodation.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “There are no legal restrictions which apply solely to students.

“Measures which restrict social gatherings between households treat students equally with the rest of the population, and are in place for clear public health reasons as part of our response to a global pandemic.

“However we recognise that student households are not always the same as those of other adults, and so we are considering what additional guidance can be given to students.


“These regulations are reviewed every three weeks and will not be in place a moment longer than they have to be.

“Additional advice and guidance from Universities Scotland for this weekend only is in response to evidence of the spread of the virus within the student community.

“As we have already said, in the fullness of time we expect all aspects of Covid-19 handling to be subject to an inquiry.”

Flu jabs to be administered at drive-through centres

The centres will aim to vaccinate up to 500 people per day and will operate every weekend until December.

Vaccine: Flu jabs to be administered at drive through centres.

Drive-through flu jab centres have opened in Edinburgh to ensure the vaccine can still be administered during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The centres will aim to vaccinate up to 500 people per day and will operate every weekend until December.

Established by the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP), the drive-throughs are aimed at ensuring the 150,000 eligible people in the city can receive their vaccination.

Judith Proctor, chief officer of EHSCP, said: “As part of our mission to support a caring, healthier and safer Edinburgh, we’re committed to making it even easier to get a flu vaccine this year.


“The flu vaccine is an important health protection measure and we want to make sure that everyone who is eligible has access to the vaccine.

“To keep the people of Edinburgh safe, and to respect physical distancing measures, we have confirmed a range of Edinburgh venues to offer access to the flu vaccine, including a drive-through service at sites across the city.

“This is the first time a drive-through model has been used for vaccinations in Scotland, and could provide a blueprint for how to deliver vaccination programmes successfully in the future.

“Details of where people can go to receive a flu vaccine will be available on the NHS Inform website.”


Walk-in clinics will be available for those without a car.

On Friday, interim deputy chief medical officer Dr Nicola Steedman urged Scots to ensure they get the flu jab to avoid the risk of contracting coronavirus and flu at the same time, which she described as “extremely serious”.

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