The Scottish Government is considering whether a “more stringent approach” is needed to the use of face masks amid rising Covid cases.
Deputy first minister John Swinney told MSPs on Holyrood’s Covid-19 Recovery Committee that research shows there has been a “declining level of compliance” with “routine measures” designed to curb the spread of the virus – such as physical distancing and the use of face coverings.
But recent evidence is reported to have shown that face coverings can help reduce coronavirus cases by more than 50%.
Labour’s Alex Rowley said he is “concerned” about the number of people seen in shops not wearing masks
He told Swinney, who is also the Scottish Government’s coronavirus recovery secretary: “If this evidence is right, and the evidence shows that mask wearing is having such an impact on trying to allow us to live with this virus, then I think the Government needs to look at enforcements.”
With the government currently considering extending the coronavirus vaccine passport scheme, Rowley added: “There is no point trying to introduce further baseline measures where one of the strongest measures is not being enforced.”
Face coverings remain mandatory in shops and on public transport in Scotland, with Swinney telling the committee he is “glad we took that decision”.
He added: “The research evidence we gather demonstrates, I think it would be fair to say, a declining level of compliance with those routine measures.
“But what studies show is these routine, habitual elements of protection would actually help us avoid having to do other things.”
He said the “disciplined use of face coverings” would help “formidably” as the Government considers if further restrictions are needed.
He added: “What follows from that is the question whether there is a necessity for us to take a more stringent approach, which puts much greater regulatory force into these arguments, and that is obviously part of the agenda the Government is considering.”