What did Nicola Sturgeon say about masks and the new Omicron strain? Scotland’s Covid measures explained

Face masks will continue to be used in Scotland’s secondary schools, the First Minister has confirmed

Nicola Sturgeon has provided an update on Scotland’s Covid situation in parliament.

The First Minister made an announcement on several factors including face masks in secondary schools, after pressure to remove the policy.

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She also confirmed Scotland has recorded 26 cases of the new BA.2 Omicron strain, with 7,565 new daily cases overall.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The most recent data continues to give grounds for optimism, the situation we are in now is much less severe than we had thought it might be.

“That said, case numbers remain high.”

What did Nicola Sturgeon say about face masks?

The First Minister confirmed that school students in secondary schools will be required to continue wearing face masks.

However, Ms Sturgeon did suggest the requirement would be removed in the near future after her advisory sub-group on education discussed the issue.

She said: “It [advisory sub-group] concluded that although we may be close to the time when face coverings no longer need to be worn in the classroom assuming current trends continue, we have not yet reached that stage.

“No-one wants young people to have to wear face coverings in the classroom for a moment longer than necessary.

“But given the current uncertainty about infection trends in the immediate future, and the relatively high levels of Covid in the younger age groups, continued caution is prudent at this stage.”

What did Nicola Sturgeon say about the new Omicron variant?

The First Minister also confirmed there have been cases of the new BA.2 Omicron variant found in Scotland.

As of 1 February 2022, there have been 26 confirmed cases of the new strain in Scotland.

The strain was first found in the UK on 10 January with The UK Health Security Agency classing BA.2 as a variant under investigation.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Genomic sequencing is being used to investigate this further.

“So far, I can confirm that in Scotland, 26 cases of BA.2 have been confirmed through genomic sequencing but we expect this number to increase as more sequencing results are reported.

“And given that not all tests are genomically sequenced, it will be an underestimate of the presence of this sub-variant here.”

As of yet, there is no evidence to suggest that the newest strain of Omicron causes a more severe infection or was better at evading immunity, however the First Minister did say that evidence has shown that the BA.2 strain may be able to “out-run” the dominant BA.1 Omicron strain.

What are the current Covid-19 rules in Scotland and across the UK?

Covid measures have been relaxed across Scotland recently.

Nightclubs, stadiums and large events have been able to reopen with the use of the Covid Pass showing fully vaccinated status.

Indoors sports have also returned for adults and restrictions on hospitality have been removed.

People in Scotland are no longer being asked to work from home and are permitted to return to the office.

Face masks are still in use across certain public places such as public transport and shops.

Scotland removed its temporary Omicron measures around the same time as the rest of the UK.

England moved away from Plan B restrictions which required face mask use, working from home and an emphasis on vaccinations and booster.

Boris Johnson moved the country to the advisory Plan A restrictions which recommends adequate ventilation while visiting other people indoors and removes the legal requirement for a face mask in public places.

Rules in Wales have followed suit, and released a roadmap of returning the country to “alert level 0” restrictions.

Nightclubs have reopened, restrictions on hospitality have been removed and events are required to make use of the Covid Pass.

The country will officially be at ‘alert level zero’ on Thursday 10 February - ministers will review rules every three weeks from there.

In Northern Ireland, a similar rollback of measure has taken place.

Larger events are able to take place with the use of the Covid Pass.

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