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Pressure on ministers after Nicola Sturgeon recommends Scots wear face coverings in public

Nicola Sturgeon issued the advice to Scots on Tuesday

2 min read

UK ministers have come under pressure to issue advice over face coverings after Nicola Sturgeon urged Scots to cover up in public.

The First Minister on Tuesday issued the guidance for the public in Scotland to wear face coverings when leaving their homes as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of coronavirus.

She explained the move would not be mandatory and said she did not expect people to wear medical grade masks, but instead should use scarves or other clothing to cover their face.

But her announcement puts her at odds with Westminster who have so far refused to issue similar guidance.

Instead, a Downing Street spokesperson said ministers were considering advice issued by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) - but that an announcement was not expected on Tuesday.

"Sage's review has been sent to ministers who are considering the advice they have been given," they said.

"Once a decision has been reached we will announce it publicly. Ministers are considering the advice and once they've reached a decision we will say so."

The Scottish Government said that while scientific evidence on the advantage of face coverings was "limited", they claimed there could be "some benefit" for those travelling on public transport or entering shops.

Several other European countries, including Germany and Spain, have made the wearing of face masks in public a compulsory measure.

But UK ministers have so far resisted following the example amid concerns over shortages of personal protective equipment for frontline health care workers.

Meanwhile, the Number 10 spokesperson insisted the announcement had not disrupted the "four nations" approach to tackling the virus, saying they would continue to "work closely".

They added: "There have been points in the response so far when announcements have been made at ever-so-slightly different times but I think by-in-large we have moved forward with a single four nations approach.

"I think the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all said that they hope that continues to be the case and we agree with that and continue to work closely with them."

The move by Ms Sturgeon comes after the Scottish Government called for a "grown-up" conversation with the public about the route out of lockdown, and set out its own criteria for potentially easing the restrictive measures.

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