John Swinney has signalled that face coverings will be required in Scotland until “at least” the end of winter – and he said he believes “Monday to Friday” office working may be consigned to the past for many staff.
The deputy first minister said there could also be a “cultural” change on face coverings, with some people choosing to continue to wear them in public places in the longer term.
He was speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, on the day the nation’s pandemic restrictions moved “beyond Level 0”.
Asked how long face coverings could be required, Mr Swinney said: “I think we’ll be using them at least through the winter, and I think some people will change practice in life.
But certainly over the course of the winter I would expect face coverings to remain a significant part of our lives.”
“When I’ve travelled in Asia, there is a common use of face coverings by individuals, by which individuals use them to protect others and to protect themselves, and it becomes part of the cultural activity of particular countries.
“I don’t know if that will happen here but I think some people will feel safer as a consequence of wearing face coverings.
“But certainly over the course of the winter I would expect face coverings to remain a significant part of our lives.”
The BBC’s Fiona Stalker also quizzed Mr Swinney on whether “hybrid” working models, with employees working in part from home, is likely to be here to stay.
The Perthshire North MSP said: “I think in the course of the pandemic there has been a lot of reflection by members of the public about: what are the implications of lockdown on the way we live our lives.
“I’ve listened to many members of the public say that they’ve actually appreciated being home a bit more, saving the commute, being able to exercise a bit more, being a bit more accessible to family, and still able to do their work.
“I certainly think we’re moving to a situation where there will be a much greater acceptance of the concept of hybrid working.
“I think people will inevitably gravitate back to the office to some extent.
I’m not sure people will be back in the Monday-to-Friday kind of environment that we’ve been accustomed to in the past.”
“I’m not sure people will be back in the Monday-to-Friday kind of environment that we’ve been accustomed to in the past.
“So therefore I think what we should do, and I think employers are doing this, is engage constructively in a discussion with staff, about what is the right way to go about that, what is the right way to construct the models of employment.
“And certainly in the Scottish Government, and the public sector, we are having those discussions with our staff, and we are managing to return of individuals to our buildings very carefully.”