Over the last few weeks there have been rising COVID-19 case numbers across Scotland and the rest of the UK. It has now been confirmed that this is due to a sub-variant of Omicron, known as BA.2.
The Scottish Government had previously announced their intention to remove the legal requirement for face coverings in most indoor settings from Monday 21 March, as well as rules requiring venues to collect contact details and maintain certain levels of distancing.
On Tuesday 15th March, the First Minister gave her scheduled COVID-19 update to confirm any changes to be made to the lasting restrictions that are still in place. However, due to the rising case numbers, the First Minister has announced that not all restrictions will be lifted as planned.
One such change is that face coverings in most indoor settings will continue to remain a legal requirement for the time being, with a review set to take place in 2 weeks’ time.
Furthermore, contact tracing and testing will continue until the end of April. However, mobile testing units and lab capacity will be retained longer term past April for limited and targeted testing purposes.
However, from Monday 21 March the requirement on businesses and service providers to retain customer contact details ended, and so too did the requirement for businesses, places of worship and service providers to have specific regard to Scottish Government guidance on COVID.
Businesses and employers should be aware that although the legal requirement to have regard to the COVID-19 guidance was removed on Monday 21 March, it will still be considered best practice to be aware of the guidance and involve it in decision making processes.
Further, employers should consider their own policies and approaches to the pandemic in the workplace, and to what extent that provision should still be made for COVID-19. For example, it is likely that – notwithstanding that the removal of the express legal duties relating specifically to COVID-19 – employers will still wish to carry out relevant risk assessments and consider COVID safety in the workplace, in line with their general health and safety obligations.
Furthermore, employers should be alive to the concerns individuals may have regarding the easing of restrictions and ensure there is an open and transparent line of communication within the business regarding changes to current COVID-19 practices.
In addition – at least for the moment – it will still be mandatory to wear face coverings in and around most workplaces, other than the exceptions where the appropriate distancing measures or screens are in place.
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