DOCTORS have called for a return to previous face mask rules after a Scottish hospital ward was forced to close due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The Scottish Government ended the use of face masks in hospitals in May World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the deadly virus is no longer a global emergency.
Scotland, in force since June 2020, officials said, has now entered a “calmer phase” of the coronavirus pandemic.
But loud BBC NewsThe Scottish Healthcare Workers Coalition (SHWC) has now sharply criticized the decision.
The group, made up of Scottish healthcare workers who have worked on the front lines during the pandemic, have written to the Scottish Government to raise concerns about the “very serious shortcomings” in the new guidance.
The workers, who are now struggling with chronic post-virus illnesses like Long-Covid themselves, added that those working in the industry were at a significantly higher risk of contracting the virus.
For this reason, they have called for the reintroduction of masks in all social facilities.
They have also urged ministers to work to improve ventilation and air filtration and make this a priority.
This comes after a ward was closed at a hospital in Stornoway after the number of positive cases of the virus rose.
The ward at Western Isles Hospital has been forced to turn away new patients as it has been linked to a spike in cases.
As security measures were tightened, temporary visit restrictions were imposed and face masks reintroduced.
The health agency warned people not to go to hospitals if they developed symptoms, while people who tested negative for the virus had to book visits in advance to see loved ones.
dr SHWC’s Shaun Peter Qureshi told BBC News: “Patients at risk have legitimate concerns that they could be putting their health at risk if they visit their GP or a hospital.”
“With at least 4 per cent of NHS workers now living with chronic post-Covid complications, the Scottish Government must follow the evidence and improve, not reduce, protections against airborne spread (of the virus) in healthcare.”
A Scottish Government spokesman told BBC News that the removal of face masks “is a proportionate approach recognizing that Scotland continues to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic and has entered a calmer phase of the pandemic.”
They said any changes to the expanded mask-use guidelines would be “in the context of the latest scientific evidence” which would be “continuously reviewed”.
The spokesperson added, “The lifting of this expanded guidance does not prevent employees, service users or visitors from wearing a mask.”
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