Publication - FOI/EIR release

Questions concerning COVID-19 restrictions and mandatory face coverings: FOI release

Published: 16 Feb 2021

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
16 Feb 2021
Questions concerning COVID-19 restrictions and mandatory face coverings: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000105127
Date received: 20 Oct 2020
Date responded: 28 Jan 2021
Information requested

1. Can you, the Govt provide the information which justifies under the Fraud Act 2006; the promotion or mandate to wear a mask?

2. Can you provide said article of law which allows a competent authority to order the wearing of a Mask as the necessary protective measures to prevent the spread of Covid19?

3. Can you, the Govt to provide the information which (by law) justifies you imposing Coivd-19 testing by said PCR test?

4. Can you, the Govt to provide the information which (by law) justifies the measurements to reduce covid-19?

5. Can you, the Govt to provide the information which (by law) justifies the statement ‘covid19 is a serious threat that necessitates the Lockdown restrictions’?

6. Can you provide the information which, under Art 1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 11 and 14 of the Human Rights Act 1998, justifies the Lockdown restrictions?

7. Will you provide the information showing that your Lockdown restrictions steps are not aligned with these in ‘Biderman’s chart of coercion’

Response

1. Section 15 (2) of the Fraud Act which can be found here extends the Act to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and does not extend to Scotland.

The Scottish Government has always and continues to make decisions based on the available scientific and medical evidence. Regarding face coverings, decisions were based on evidence and advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Scientific Advisory Group forEmergencies (SAGE).

The Scottish Government Covid-19 Advisory Group, commonly known as the CMO’s Advisory Group, applies the advice from the SAGE and other appropriate sources of evidence and information and use it to inform local decisions in Scotland.

The decision to make face coverings mandatory on public transport and retail settings was based on this evidence.

I have noted below links to the appropriate information :

On 4 June 2020, SAGE discussed mitigation measures which included the use of face covering. You can find further information in the meeting minutes which are available on the UK Government website here.

The World Health Organisation released update advice on face covering on the 5 June 2020. The guidance advised that to prevent Covid-19 transmission effectively in areas of community transmission, governments should encourage the general public to wear face coverings in specific situations and settings as part of comprehensive approach to suppress Covid-19 transmission. You can find a copy of this guidance on the WHO website here. And their recent guidance on children wearing face coverings can be found here.

The UK Government released a summary of the relevant SAGE reports for this topic. This can be found on the UK Parliament website here.

The Scottish Governments guidance on face coverings, including exemptions, can be found here.

We continue to review our policies on a regular basis in light of the emerging evidence on coronavirus and so we would urge you to continue to use the hyperlinks to find the latest position.

2. The UK Coronavirus Act 2020 and Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts 2020 provide new powers and measures to help protect the public, maintain essential public services and support the economy in the face of the unprecedented and ongoing public health and economic challenges created by the pandemic. These powers have been used to implement the restrictions and requirements currently in place across Scotland.

The text of the UK Act can be found here: 

Coronavirus Act 2020 (legislation.gov.uk)

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts can be found here: 

Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 (legislation.gov.uk)

Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 (legislation.gov.uk)

Schedule 19 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 contains provision enabling the Scottish Ministers to make regulations for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to the incidence or spread of infection or contamination in Scotland (whether from risks originating there or elsewhere). The legislation for this can be found here.

3. As noted in response to point 2, the Coronavirus Act 2020, schedule 19 provision also applies to PCR testing.

The tests being used to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Scotland are real-time RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) assays which are the gold standard for respiratory viruses. These assays have been designed to target a section of the SARS-COV-2 genetic material which is specific to the virus. There are a variety of RT-PCR assays currently in use in Scotland to confirm the presence of the virus SARS CoV-2, all of which are regulated and approved by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and thereafter validated for use by the Scottish laboratory performing the test.

An article describing the original Public Health England (PHE) assay for COVID-19 has been published in Euro surveillance 2020 which includes information about how the assay is specific to this particular strain of coronavirus. Eurosurveillance

Public Health Scotland have also produced COVID-19 guidance for sampling and laboratory investigations which can be found here: HPS Website - COVID-19 - guidance for sampling and laboratory investigations (scot.nhs.uk)

4. The Coronavirus Act 2020 provides basis for the domestic restrictions regulations. The International Travel Regs are made under the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008.

5 . National Records of Scotland (NRS) have been closely monitoring the weekly number of deaths, and publish a weekly analysis providing a breakdown of deaths from all causes and deaths involving COVID-19. This can be found here.

The document COVID-19: Framework for Decision Making – Assessing the Four Harms of the Crisis (www.gov.scot) which can be found here, explains how the four harms approach works in practice and presents evidence to illustrate how these support decisions about activities and restrictions through the Route Map process.

Harm 1 is the tragic harm that COVID-19 can cause to people’s health. We saw this in the first phases of the pandemic in Scotland, with the daily growth in number of new cases; number of new hospitalisations; number of people requiring treatment in Intensive Care Units; and sadly, the number of deaths related to the virus. Lockdown helped us to bring these numbers under control, but as we move through a second wave and into the winter, we have a renewed focus on the direct harm of COVID-19.

COVID-19 causes direct and tragic harm to people’s health. We are tracking daily the extent of the direct health harm being caused by the virus. Data is published every day on the Scottish Government Coronavirus webpages, available here.

6. Fundamental freedoms are guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and set out in the Human Rights Act. They are also protected by the Scotland Act 1998. In Scotland, the Scotland Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998 require that Scottish legislation, the acts of Scottish Ministers, and the actions of public authorities all comply with the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR, and the corresponding domestic legislation which gives effect to those rights in Scotland, do allow for restrictions to be imposed, in exceptional circumstances, in order to protect public health and to safeguard other rights, such as the right to life.

However, all such restrictions have to be necessary, proportionate and no more limiting in their effect than is justified by the particular threat being faced. The Coronavirus pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge, and care has been taken in responding to that challenge to ensure that all of the actions we have taken are fully compliant with the ECHR and with wider human rights requirements. That is why measures in the Coronavirus Acts are subject to review and proactive reporting requirements. An analysis of ECHR human rights impacts has been published as part of the Policy Memorandums for the first and second Coronavirus (Scotland) Bills.

The Scottish Government is very clear that even temporary limitations on fundamental rights represent a step which any modern democracy would prefer not to have to take. We are therefore committed to removing restrictions as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so, keeping in mind the requirement to protect public health and safeguard individuals across society who remain at potential risk.

The Scottish Government and partner agencies are putting equality and human rights at the heart of our response to Covid-19. Our Framework for Decision-making found here, sets out seven core principles across all our work, one of which was ‘Fair and ethical’, committing us to upholding the principles of human dignity, autonomy, respect and equality, as we deal with the pandemic and its consequences.

7 . The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for in relation to Biderman's chart of coercion. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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