Nicola Sturgeon has said she will “strongly encourage people” to wear face coverings in shops but is still considering whether to make it mandatory.
The First Minister said the Scottish Government is prepared to force the majority of people to wear protection in public but has not made a final decision on whether to implement the policy.
With evidence suggesting wearing a face covering can help prevent the spread of coronavirus in situations where social distancing is more difficult, Sturgeon urged people to do it voluntarily to protect others.
She was asked about whether ministers could make wearing a face covering compulsory in light of anecdotal reports of people in shops and on public transport ignoring the advice.
The FM replied: “Yes, it is under consideration. I said when I announced the policy some weeks back that we would keep this under review.
“We haven’t reached a final position on this but I think it is fair to say it is something that we are considering.”
It comes as UK transport secretary Grant Shapps announced face coverings will be mandatory on public transport in England from mid-June.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing on Thursday, Sturgeon said she would “never encourage” challenging people in shops or on public transport for not wearing a mask.
But she added: “Right now, I am asking you to do it because we think that it is a real benefit.
“If it can help stop the transmission of this virus, it’s something that is worth doing.”
The First Minister said there could be exemptions for young children or people with certain health conditions like asthma.
However, she stressed: “In an enclosed space, where physical distancing is a bit more difficult, than there is some evidence that you wearing a face covering can protect someone else.
“If you have the virus – and if you’re not symptomatic you might not know it – you can then protect or minimise the risk of you transmitting the virus to somebody else.”
She added: “Another person wearing a face mask is protecting you in the same way.
“So I really want to strongly encourage people – if you haven’t already been doing it – or if you started to do it and found it uncomfortable and haven’t continued – please, please consider this very carefully because we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the risks of transmission.
“If the anecdotal evidence suggests people are not doing it, then I think we have a duty to at least consider whether we make that advice stronger, up to and including in certain circumstances making it mandatory.”
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