The legal requirements to wear face coverings on public transport and in most indoor public settings will continue until at least early April given the current spike in COVID-19 case numbers.
The remaining legal requirements for businesses and service providers to collect customer details for contact tracing, and to take reasonable measures set out in COVID-19 guidance, will end as planned on Monday 21st of March.
The First Minister has also confirmed that people without COVID-19 symptoms will no longer be asked to take regular lateral flow tests from Friday 18th of April. The change forms part of the Test and Protect Transition Plan, which sets out how testing will become more targeted, with the aim of reducing serious harm from COVID-19.
Speaking on the changes, the First Minister said: “Today marks a further decisive shift away from controlling COVID-19 through legal restrictions, and towards relying instead on advice and guidance. But please remember, especially since case numbers are so high, that this guidance and advice remains important.
“Given current case numbers, and the desirability of getting those back under control quickly, the wearing of face masks will stay in place for at least another two weeks.
“Changes in Test and Protect will be phased between now and the end of April. After Easter – from 18 April – we will stop recommending that people who don’t have symptoms, should test for COVID-19.
“This change will apply across the population –including in most workplaces and in early years centres, schools, universities, and colleges.
“Then, at the end of April, routine testing will end – even for people who have symptoms.
“At that time, physical test sites will close – although some mobile testing units and capacity will be retained for possible future use. Contact tracing will also end.
“Free testing will not generally be available to the wider population. Instead, our advice will be that if you have symptoms of COVID-19 – or indeed symptoms of the flu, or any other infectious illness – you should stay at home in order to aid your recovery.”
The changes to Test and Protect mean that from Friday 18th of April:
- most people without symptoms will no longer be asked to take COVID-19 tests
- free lateral flow devices (LFDs) for the purposes of twice weekly routine testing will no longer be available for the general population given the changing advice, but will continue to be free for any purpose for which testing continues to be advised – for clinical care, for health and social care workers and for people visiting vulnerable individuals in care homes or hospitals
- until the end of April, people with symptoms should still isolate and get a PCR test
- vaccinated close contacts of someone with COVID-19 should continue to test daily for seven days with LFDs
People who have symptoms of COVID-19 will still be able to book PCR tests in the usual way until April 30th. From that date, test sites will close and people with symptoms will no longer be advised that they need to seek a test. The public health advice for people who feel unwell will be to stay at home until they feel better, to reduce the risk of infecting other people.