face mask coronavirus shopper

Shoppers will have to continue wearing face masks in stores even after all major social distancing measures are scrapped, Scotland’s first minister has announced.

Nicola Sturgeon said mask wearing would continue in retail as well as on public transport after 9 August, the target revealed yesterday for Scotland’s so-called “Freedom Day”.

Meanwhile, retail bosses in Scotland have warned it could take many weeks before trade returns to normal, despite its two-metre rule being scrapped next month, allowing a greater number of shoppers in stores.

The FM said that, provided infection and hospitalisation rates did not jump in the meantime, outdoor social distancing would be scrapped from 19 July.

Stores will still have to comply with social distancing, but with the rule changing to one metre rather than two from 19 July.

Provided there are no major setbacks, “all major Covid restrictions” will then be ditched from 9 August.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to set out his latest plans for the lifting of social distancing measures in England on Monday, with a date of 19 July also set as a milestone.

Stores in England currently operate with a one-metre plus rule, having scrapped two-metre distancing last year. Johnson is reported to be planning to scrap the rule altogether from next month.

Ministers have, however, given mixed signals over future plans for mask wearing.

Scottish Retail Consortium head of policy Ewan MacDonald-Russell said yesterday’s announcement meant the industry could look forward to returning to something closer to normality”.

But he added: “However, even if this timetable is met that will not be an end to restrictions on retailers.

“Shop workers and shoppers will still have to wear face coverings and maintain one-metre distancing, for a period it seems, and it’s likely it will be some time before we return to pre-pandemic trading.

“In that context, Scottish ministers will need to keep in mind how they can continue to support the industry in the coming months; and be thinking creatively about what more they can do to entice and stimulate shoppers back, especially to our city centres.”