First Minister Humza Yousaf says “Covid isn’t over” despite the ending of mask requirements in health and social care settings.
From Tuesday, they no longer need to be worn routinely in care homes or health settings such as hospitals, dental surgeries and GP practices.
The change comes more than three years on from when the Covid-19 virus first hit Scotland.
Yousaf described the move as an “evolution of the guidance”.
He said: “We are, of course, advised by those experts in infection prevention and control and we’ll continue to take their clinical advice, their clinical input in that regard.
“So Covid isn’t over. People will know that who are watching and who are listening. They may themselves have had Covid recently or had a family member have Covid recently.
“It’s really important we follow all of those guidelines in order to keep ourselves safe and the public safe.
“But this is that natural evolution of that guidance.”
The return to pre-pandemic guidance on May 16 means that from then, mask use will be based on clinical need, on infection prevention and control advice.
As a result, staff, patients, service users and visitors will not be routinely asked to wear face masks in health and social care settings.
At the height of the pandemic people were asked to wear face coverings in indoor public places, such as shopping centres and supermarkets, and when moving about in pubs and restaurants, with the rules gradually eased.
Alex McMahon, Scotland’s chief nursing officer, said: “Due to the success of vaccines in protecting people, and the availability of treatments, now is the right time to revise the advice on wearing masks in health and social care settings and return to pre-pandemic guidance.
“We recognise that some staff may have concerns around the withdrawal of this guidance and would expect organisations to undertake individual occupational health assessments and risk assessments as appropriate.
“We continue to be vigilant in our response to Covid-19 and encourage everyone to make sure they are up to date with the boosters available to them.
“We are grateful for the tireless work of health and social care teams during these challenging times and to everyone who has helped them by adhering to the guidance.”
Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation said the Covid-19 pandemic is no longer a global health emergency.
But the UN health agency also said thousands of people are still dying from the virus every week.