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Decision on face mask rules to be announced

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Earlier this month, Ms Sturgeon declined to remove face mask requirements on public transport and some indoor places such as shops, citing rising case numbers.

Since then, figures have continued to rise, with the number of people in hospital on Tuesday the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic.

The First Minister will make a statement to Holyrood on Wednesday afternoon (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) / PA Wire

Face covering rules are currently the only legal restrictions place on Scots due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The First Minister had previously signalled this would move from being a legal requirement to being guidance on Monday, March 21.

However, she told MSPs on March 15 that with the “current spike” in cases, ministers had agreed it was “prudent” for this measure to remain in place.

While Ms Sturgeon said she knew this would be “disappointing”, she urged people to “be patient for a little while longer”.

New reported cases have fallen since the last announcement, from 10,710 in March 16 to 9,311 on Monday, but the number of people in hospital has risen sharply.

On March 15, 1,996 people in Scotland’s hospitals had a confirmed case of Covid-19, compared to 2,383 on Tuesday, according to Scottish Government figures.

Despite the rise in cases, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has called on the First Minister to “give up control over people’s lives”.

“She can’t use the higher case rates that she has completely failed to reduce as an excuse to delay or backtrack on lifting the remaining restrictions,” he said.

“We have now been living under some form of legal Covid restrictions for over two years. Nicola Sturgeon must now start to trust the Scottish public to keep themselves safe.

“Despite their overly cautious approach, the SNP’s Covid strategy has failed. Scotland’s infection rates have been significantly higher than England’s for several weeks.

“All the SNP have achieved with their dithering and delays is to prolong the hardship of the public and businesses.

“Nicola Sturgeon cannot keep Scotland in Covid restrictions forever. It’s time we got back to normality.”

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