Covid-19 (Next Steps)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th July 2020.

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The First Minister:

Yes, I would.

The statement that the WHO made two nights ago that it is looking further into the issue of possible airborne transmission—it is not yet a definitive statement; it was in response to an opinion from a large number of scientists—is of serious and significant concern. I hope that this does not happen, but if at any stage the WHO’s view is that the virus can be transmitted through the air, that would pose significant challenges for us in managing the situation. Our current understanding is that if somebody sneezes, anybody who is not far enough away can be infected immediately by droplets and that the droplets can rest on a surface, so if somebody touches it, they can get infected. If it turns out that the virus can be airborne, that means that, if somebody sneezes, the droplets can stay in the air for quite some time and then somebody coming into the same room, perhaps a couple of hours later, is still at risk. I just want to put it on Parliament’s radar that that issue is now under active consideration by the scientific community.

Annabelle Ewing is right that the issue underlines the importance of wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces. I reiterate to people that that will be law as of tomorrow in shops, as it already is on public transport, but you should not do it just because it is the law or because it can be enforced and you can be fined by the police if you do not do it. You should do it because it is the right thing to do. If you wear a face covering in an enclosed space—that could be any enclosed space where you feel a bit uncomfortable or where physical distancing is difficult—that protects other people from you passing the virus to them and, if other people wear face coverings, that protects you. So, please wear face coverings in enclosed spaces, because that is collectively helping us to protect everybody.