Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, faces criticism this week after she was caught indoors without a face mask just days before mask laws were scheduled to lift. Sturgeon was reported to police following a video which shows her interacting closely with others without a face covering. Until the 18th of April, face masks in public buildings were a legal requirement.
As of the 18th, face coverings are no longer mandatory in public spaces or on public transport. However, they remain a firm piece of COVID-19 guidance for the Scottish public to follow. This comes nearly three months after England lifted the same rule.
The video of Sturgeon breaking COVID regulations, posted by MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, has amassed over 500,000 views.
Sturgeon later released a public apology. She stated, “Having received complaints about the matter, Police Scotland made contact with me. This is what they would have done with anyone else in these circumstances, and they were absolutely right to treat me no differently to any other citizen.”
“I explained that the error was inadvertent and the police have confirmed that the matter is closed.”
Since speaking to the First Minister, the police have concluded that no further action is necessary.
This isn’t the first time that Nicola Sturgeon has been caught without a face covering despite her government’s instructions to the public. In late 2020, she was pressured to apologise after briefly appearing at a funeral without a mask.
In the days following England’s end to mask laws late January, COVID-19 cases spiked dramatically and then fell. The number of Scottish cases has been consistently high since mid-Feburary; it is possible that the spike observed in England will also occur in Scotland. This could be especially damaging due to the country’s already high statistics.
The NHS Health Board stated, “As of April 7, 2022, there were 1,837,704 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland. The Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board has the highest amount of confirmed cases at 438,031.”
A further increase in cases could have serious and potentially fatal consequences for those considered high risk. Many people have taken to social media to state their beliefs about the Scottish Government’s decision.
It will become apparent what, if any, consequences surface following the end of face covering laws. The removal of the mask law raises questions about the Scottish Government’s unusual timing, considering the country’s already high COVID-19 rates. It is disheartening to see that the emphasis on the importance of the public still wearing masks has been undermined by breaches of COVID-19 laws, especially by members of the government that implemented them.
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