A RECOMMENDATION for staff and visitors at care homes to wear face coverings is being dropped by the Scottish Government.

Social care minister Kevin Stewart said the move was the “latest step in our path to recovering from the pandemic”.

It comes in the wake of the “phenomenal success” of the Covid vaccination programme, Mr Stewart added.

More than 12 million doses of the various vaccines have been administered – with the scheme credited with causing a drop in infections as well as reducing the severity of illness amongst those who do contract the virus.

Under the new Scottish Government guidelines, social care staff and visitors are no longer being advised to wear face masks at all times.

However masks and face coverings could still be recommended in certain circumstances, such as if there is a local outbreak of the virus.

People can also continue wearing a mask if they choose to do so.

Care providers have been told to implement the new guidance from September 14 onwards – or earlier if they are ready.

Mr Stewart said: “Our phenomenally successful vaccination programme has driven down infections and saved the NHS from untold pressures.

“Removing the need for face masks in social care settings including care homes is the latest step in our path to recovering from the pandemic.

“This will make communication and relationships easier in care settings, benefitting mental health and promoting the rights and choices of those working in and using social care.”

As the change was announced, new figures from Public Health Scotland showed a small drop in the number of Covid patients in hospital.

In the week ending September 4, there were on average 695 patients in hospital with Covid-19, down from 699 the previous week.

However, the figures also showed there were 11 new admissions to intensive care units involving Covid-19 patients – an increase of four from the previous week.