New Covid rules announced in Scotland: What are the changes across the four nations?

Updates on measures in Scotland were announced on Tuesday and legal requirements in Northern Ireland were lifted earlier in February.

PA Reporter
Tuesday 22 February 2022 17:42 GMT
Covid restrictions are changing across the UK nations (PA)
Covid restrictions are changing across the UK nations (PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Scotland has followed England in announcing plans to end some coronavirus restrictions, with the legal requirement to wear face masks in some settings to be scrapped from March 21.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also revealed the country’s certification scheme will “come to an end” on Monday February 28.

It comes after the Prime Minister announced an end to legal self-isolation requirements in England as of Thursday among other major changes as part of the Government’s Living with Covid plan.

But what are the coronavirus rules across the other UK nations?

Lateral flow tests have been free throughout the pandemic so far across the UK. (Danny Lawson/PA)
Lateral flow tests have been free throughout the pandemic so far across the UK. (Danny Lawson/PA)

-Scotland

Scotland’s mandatory coronavirus vaccine passport scheme is to be scrapped from Monday, the First Minister announced on Tuesday.

This will happen assuming “no significant adverse developments” in the fight against the virus occur, she added.

The scheme had required Scots to show their vaccination status before entering a nightclub or attending a large event.

However, while the legal requirement to wear masks in some settings including on public transport and in indoor venues are to be dropped from March 21, the Scottish Government will still “strongly recommend” people continue to use them.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon MSP updates MSPs on any changes to the Covid restrictions at the Scottish Parliament Holyrood Edinburgh (PA)
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon MSP updates MSPs on any changes to the Covid restrictions at the Scottish Parliament Holyrood Edinburgh (PA) (PA Wire)

And Ms Sturgeon made clear the Scottish Government would “continue to ask those who test positive for Covid to isolate for the recommended period”.

The requirement for businesses to retain customer contact details in case this is needed for contact tracing is also expected to end on March 21.

Ms Sturgeon also highlighted her “frustration at the position of the UK Government” on free testing and said the Scottish Government will look to continue providing free lateral flow tests longer-term.

In a change of stance, the Scottish Government is now advising people to do a lateral flow test twice a week – moving back from the position where the public were asked to do a test before meeting with other people.

-England

Boris Johnson delivered his vision for living with coronavirus – including an end to mandatory self-isolation and universal free tests for the general public in England – on Monday.

The Government’s Living with Covid plan sets out the legal obligation to self-isolate following a positive coronavirus test will be axed as of February 24.

The official public health advice will remain that both adults and children testing positive for the virus should stay at home for five days, but this will not be enforced by law.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, to outline the Government’s new long-term Covid-19 plan (PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, to outline the Government’s new long-term Covid-19 plan (PA) (PA Wire)

The Government will also no longer ask vaccinated contacts, and those under 18, to test for seven days, and will remove the legal requirement for contacts who are not vaccinated to self-isolate.

Free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing will also end for the general public in England from April 1.

Remaining symptomatic testing will be focused on the most vulnerable, with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) set to determine the details.

Although the plans only apply to England, major developments such as the end to free universal testing are likely to affect the devolved nations.

They have already proven controversial in Scotland, where the First Minister voiced her “frustration” at the UK Government’s approach and said it was “important” for tests to remain free of charge.

-Wales

Wales is expected to announce longer-term plans for living with Covid alongside the outcome of its latest review of regulations on March 4.

Since January 28, the country has been in Coronavirus Alert Level 0, meaning most of the rules on socialising have ended.

On February 18, the Government also scrapped the requirement to show the NHS Covid pass to go to indoor and outdoor events and venues like cinemas, theatres and nightclubs.

Masks will no longer be legally required on public transport and indoor venues in Scotland from March 21 (PA)
Masks will no longer be legally required on public transport and indoor venues in Scotland from March 21 (PA) (PA Wire)

Face masks are still a legal requirement on public transport and in some indoor places, such as shops, GP surgeries, hospitals and care homes.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford also said before Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday that it would be “premature and reckless” to wind back the testing programme.

There are no formal plans to end self-isolation rules following a positive test in Wales.

However, Welsh economy minister Vaughan Gething previously said it was possible all Covid restrictions in the country could be lifted by the end of March.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford (PA)
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford (PA) (PA Wire)

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Self-isolation has played an important role in breaking the chains of transmission of the virus and it continues to be part of our response to managing the pandemic.

“We will be announcing our longer term plans alongside the outcome of our next 21-day review of regulations on 4 March.”

-Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann has said his department will “carefully consider” the Living with Covid plan unveiled in England.

Reacting to Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday, Mr Swann said no decisions have been taken on any changes to Test and Trace in the region.

He did however say the programme would remain “under review to ensure it remains proportionate and effective”.

Legal Covid requirements have already been replaced with guidance in Northern Ireland (PA)
Legal Covid requirements have already been replaced with guidance in Northern Ireland (PA) (PA Wire)

“Our key priorities for testing include ensuring that it is prioritised for those who need it most.

“It is also imperative that we have appropriate contingency planning in place, with flexible testing capability which can be rapidly deployed to respond to any future variants or seasonal surges.”

Mr Swann added: “Any policy changes will be informed by the latest clinical and scientific advice and consideration of the Covid situation in Northern Ireland.”

Coronavirus legal restrictions in Northern Ireland have already been replaced with guidance.

Mr Swann revoked the rules on 15 February, meaning people no longer need to wear face masks in public settings or show Covid certificates to gain entry to venues.

While the curbs were removed from law, they are being kept as official guidance.

Self-isolation guidance on infection has not changed and neither has the Executive’s “work from home where possible” message.

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