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Coronavirus: SNP minister suggests staring at shoppers without face masks

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SHOPPERS who fail to wear a face covering could be “stared at” to help change their ways, a Scottish Government minister has said. 

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said there was currently a problem with too few people wearing face coverings in supermarkets and on public transport.

The Government has recommended people wear one in such circumstances to guard against unwittingly spreading coronavirus, but it is voluntary, not compulsory. 

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At Holyrood’s Covid-19 committee, Annabelle Ewing, the SNP MSP for Cowdenbeath, said the tone of the public health messaging was not yet right. 

She said: “I was at a supermarket last night. I think I was the only person in the entire shop wearing a face covering. 

“I think we need to have further reflection on what our message is there.

“I know the message is, that we should be doing this, but evidently more people are not yet doing that.” 

Mr Russell said he agreed, and issue was coming “centre stage” again as the lockdown eased and people circulated more widely. 

He said: “I have noticed myself, wearing a face covering at a filling station, I was the only person who was doing so. I know there’s an awful of thinking going on about that. 

“I would encourage people to wear one, and to wear one when in shops.

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“Sometimes I think people think they’re going to be stared at or looked at.

“We should get to the stage where, if everybody’s doing it, then the person who’s not doing it is the person who’s looked at and stared at.

“So I think you’re right, and I think we need to look at that very, very seriously.

“There has been a debate about the efficacy of it, but I think there is a growing public view that we should see it more.”

Dumfries & Galloway Labour councillor Adam Wilson tweeted in response to the comment: “I have asthma, the guidance tells me not to wear a face mask. But thanks, it’ll be great having loads of people staring at me the one time a week I leave the house.”

Asked about people with health conditions, the First Minister’s official spokesman said later: “Clearly if someone has a condition that made it difficult or no advisable to wear a face mask, they’ve got to exercise their discretions and do the right thing for their own circumstance. 

“The First Minister has said that the wearing of all face coverings shops and public transport has not been made compulsory, but we are recommending it.

“If people are able to do so, then we recommend that they should for their own health and for public health more widely and the benefit of others.” 

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