Scotland will end its COVID passport scheme next Monday and the legal requirement to wear face coverings in some indoor settings will be dropped from 21 March, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The decisions were announced as part of the Scottish government’s plans for managing the pandemic with a new “strategic framework”.
From 21 March, wearing face coverings in indoor settings like public transport will become guidance.
Other restrictions will also end on the same date. Places of worship and businesses will no longer be required to follow COVID guidance, and rules on collecting customer details will be scrapped.
The COVID certification scheme, which is in place for those attending large events including concerts and football matches, will come to an end on Monday 28 February.
Ms Sturgeon outlined her government’s commitment to “continued access to PCR and lateral flow testing free of charge where we transition to a system of testing that is more targeted”.
She said the only immediate change to testing would be on how often people are advised to get tested.
Instead of telling people to test before going anywhere to mix with others, from next Monday the government will advise testing at least twice a week, and in particular, if going to a crowded place or meeting someone who is clinically vulnerable.
In March, she said the government would publish a detailed plan for testing “describing the scale of infrastructure that will remain in place for the longer term”.
She confirmed that those who test positive for the virus would continue to self-isolate “for now” – a contrast to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to drop the rule in England from Thursday.
She said her government would continue to make self-isolation support payments to those who are eligible.
‘An important moment’
“Today’s new framework is an important moment in our recovery,” she said.
“It marks the point at which we move away hopefully sustainably from legal restrictions and rely instead on sensible behaviours, adaptations and mitigation.”
“Even though certain measures, for example face coverings, may not be legal requirements in future, we will still recommend voluntary compliance as part of the range of behaviours that will help keep us safe as we manage COVID in a more sustainable and less restrictive way,” she continued.
Ms Sturgeon said she was waiting for clarity on how much funding would be available from the Westminster government to support continued free testing.
She said there would be a “transition period” beyond the end of March when the testing system will operate “on the same basis” – its duration will be outlined next month.
She said it is “reasonable” to “move away from mass population-wide asymptomatic testing” to a “more targeted system” and the government is “duty-bound to remove legally imposed restrictions” as the impact of the pandemic becomes less severe.
Ms Sturgeon’s announcement comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said all of England’s legal restrictions would be lifted on Thursday – while free mass-testing will stop in April.