Face masks could have to be worn in Scotland until Christmas, the deputy First Minister has said.
As part of a number of basic measures to help control the spread of the virus, mandatory face coverings are expected to remain an important aspect of Covid-19 rules for some time to come.
The legal requirement to wear masks is being dropped in England from Monday, but vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said there was “an expectation for people to do the right thing” and wear them in indoor enclosed spaces.
The whole of Scotland will move to level zero coronavirus restrictions on July 19, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on Tuesday.
She also said she expects the country to move beyond the lowest level of the government’s five-tier Covid system on August 9, when most legal restrictions are expected to be dropped.
However, the Scottish Government has said there will be an “ongoing need” for face masks.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland that he could see face coverings required until Christmas.
He said: “I think that’s perfectly conceivable. I think that we should recognise that we have got to take a careful and cautious approach to the suppression of Covid.
“We know the virus is going to be with us for a long time so the more that we can do, a gradual elementary level to provide obstacles and barriers to the circulation of this virus, the more we should do that.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan has challenged official government policy by ordering compulsory mask wearing on London’s buses, tubes and trams.
He said: “I’ve repeatedly made clear that the simplest and safest option would have been for the Government to retain the national requirement for face coverings on public transport. I’m not prepared to stand by and put Londoners, and our city’s recovery, at risk.
“This is why, after careful consideration, I have decided to ask TfL (Transport for London) to retain the requirement for passengers to wear a face covering on all TfL services when the national regulations change.”
A group of unpaid carers and disabled people previously called for some Covid protection measures to remain in place as restrictions eased in Scotland.
On Tuesday, the First Minister said: “It is important to stress that measures like the continued wearing of face coverings are important, not just to give added protection to the population as a whole, but also to give protection and assurance to those amongst us who are particularly vulnerable and who previously had to shield.”