Face covering rules could be removed from schools “relatively soon”, a leading infections expert has said.
Dr Christine Tait-Burkard said that she expects face covering rules to be removed from schools by February and for the general public “relatively soon thereafter”.
It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs on Tuesday that Scotland had “turned the corner on the Omicron wave”.
She announced that measures introduced at Christmas – including table service and one-metre distancing between groups – would be removed from Monday, meaning pubs, nightclubs and theatres will be able to operate at full capacity.
However, Covid rules that remain in place include secondary pupils and staff requiring to cover their faces at all times when they are at school.
Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland on Wednesday, Dr Tait-Burkard said the latest data was encouraging, and she expects the removal of face masks to be announced shortly.
She said: “Even with schools returning we actually have not seen an increase in cases.
“I would expect for schools that removal of face masks to be relatively soon, as in early to mid-February, and I’m expecting that actually even for the general public that restriction may be eased relatively soon thereafter.”
Deputy first minister John Swinney refused to be drawn on a timetable for the removal of face coverings, saying he expects that they will be required for “quite a bit longer”.
He said: “I think we will be wearing face coverings in general in society for quite a bit longer.
“I think it is one of those straightforward, baseline measures which gives us a degree of protection against the virus, because the virus hasn’t somehow disappeared.
“It is still out there and we have got to take elementary steps to try to protect against its circulation, and we will do so, but we won’t keep those restrictions in place for a moment longer than necessary.”
Margaret Wilson, the chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said her organisation did not support the continued use of face masks in schools when the issue was raised at the Scottish Parliament’s education committee on Wednesday.
She said: “I do believe that children are under stricter mitigations than any other area of society, and that is why it’s really important that everything is reviewed on a regular basis.”