Highland health chief underlines need to 'keep up our guard' on Covid when legal restrictions are lifted
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A Highland health chief has emphasised the need to "keep up our guard" after plans to lift the remaining Covid-19 legal restrictions in Scotland were outlined by Nicola Sturgeon.
The First Minister said it was important to remain vigilant over the threats posed by the virus and that sentiment was echoed by Dr Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS Highland.
“Covid is causing less harm than it did earlier in the pandemic but is still with us, and still a threat to health, especially for the vulnerable and the unvaccinated," Dr Allison said.
“It will soon be necessary to rely on guidance and our behaviour towards others to control Covid without the addition of rules and laws.
"We need to keep up our guard even more so than in the winter flu season, but because of our experience of following the rules we know that we can take care.
"We know that it is important to stay at home when ill, whether or not it is the law. We know that we can keep a distance from people, wash our hands and avoid spreading virus when we cough. We have got used to wearing masks.
“The challenge for all of us now is to stick with appropriate precautions and take care of ourselves and others not because the rules and laws say we must, but because we know it is the right thing to do.”
The vaccine certification scheme, covering nightclubs and large events, will end on Monday, February 28, although any businesses that wish to keep using the app on a voluntary basis will be able to do so.
From Monday, March 21, the legal requirement to wear face coverings in shops and hospitality venues and on public transport is likely to be downgraded to guidance.
Access to lateral flow and PCR tests will continue to be free of charge, ahead of a "detailed transition plan" being published in March on the future of Scotland’s test and protect programme. Anyone who tests positive for Covid will continue to be asked to self-isolate to reduce the risk of infecting other people.
Ms Sturgeon set out details of the staged approach easing protective measures in a statement to parliament on Tuesday.
She said: “Covid is unfortunately still with us, and we must therefore remain vigilant and prepared for the threats it poses, but the new framework is an important moment in our recovery. It marks the point at which we move away, hopefully sustainably, from legal restrictions, and rely instead on sensible behaviours, adaptations and mitigations.
“Our return to normality must go hand in hand with a continuing determination to look out for and after each other. All of us have a part to play in ensuring a safe and sustainable recovery, so please continue to follow public health advice on getting vaccinated, testing as regularly as appropriate, wearing face coverings when required or recommended, and keeping rooms ventilated.
“All of this still matters, even as we lift the remaining legal requirements. It is how we can keep ourselves and each other safe, as we recover from Covid and look forward together to brighter and better days ahead.”