Children under 12 no longer need to wear face masks from Monday
Children under 12 will no longer need to wear face coverings from Monday, according to Scottish Government guidance published today.
The advice comes after an announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier this week, which confirmed the majority of COVID restrictions in Scotland will be dropped next week.
Previously, children aged five and over had to wear face masks on dedicated school transport and enclosed public spaces such as shops.
However, guidance made available by the government today outlined: "Children under 12 are exempt from any requirement to wear face coverings, but can, of course continue to choose to do so."
As there is a continued requirement for pupils aged 12 and over to wear face coverings in school, including during lessons and while inside school buildings, it has been advised that those in high school who have not yet turned 12 do the same.
The guidance continued: "It is recommended that, in the case of the small number of children already attending secondary school before their 12th birthday, they are encouraged to follow the same rules that apply to those aged 12 and over to align with their peer group."
Annie Wells MSP, Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, said the rules were "a mess" and claimed communication of the changes "has been even more shambolic".
She added: "They’ve clearly u-turned on face masks for most primary school children but tried to sneak out the change.
"Parents will be left baffled by the flaws in this new SNP guidance. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to these decisions. Why are they deeming it safe for 11 year olds to remove face coverings but 12 year olds still need to wear a mask?
"Young people deserve a return to normality as soon as possible after the difficult year they’ve had but the SNP are refusing to put Scotland’s schools first."
Meanwhile, the government has also refused to rule out keeping some COVID mitigations in place until next year.
The guidance said: "We anticipate that it may be necessary to keep some precautionary measures in place until early 2022, in order to help manage the increased pressure the NHS will face over the winter period.
"However we will review the position every three weeks to ensure any measures remain necessary and proportionate."
Wells said: "It looks like the SNP are quietly planning to keep COVID rules in place until next year.
"We’ve now gone beyond level zero yet there’s no end in sight for people across Scotland who want to get back to normal."
Alistair Carmichael MP, interim leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, accused the government of failing to "leave the rules alone for three days at a time".
He added: "The Scottish Government need to straighten out their tangle of COVID rules before any more damage is done to public trust and compliance."
Responding to the comments, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Primary school children have never had to wear face coverings in schools and it is inaccurate to say this has changed.
"As for claims that restrictions may be needed into the future, this virus has hopefully taught everyone that we cannot know what new variant may be round the corner. We cannot therefore say when all restrictions will be eased."