COVID-19 update - 16 March 2022

Mar 16, 2022

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, the First Minister outlined plans to further relax the protective measures in place as we move towards recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The First Minister confirmed that, even though the weight of infection numbers is putting significant pressure on hospital capacity – and is of real concern – there is strong evidence that the link between infection and serious health harm has weakened considerably. This is due to the immune protection, not least from vaccines, more than it is to Omicron being inherently milder.

Moving from legal requirements to advice and guidance

Scotland will move away from legal requirements. These will be replaced with guidance in line with the recently published Scottish Government Strategic Framework to manage COVID-19.

From Monday 21 March – with one temporary, precautionary exception - the remaining domestic legal measures will be lifted and replaced with appropriate guidance.

The exception to the relaxation of legal restrictions relates to face coverings. The legal requirement to wear face coverings (unless exempt) in most indoor public spaces and on public transport is to remain for now. Given the current spike in case numbers, the First Minister has confirmed this requirement will be retained and will be reviewed again on 29 March.

SCTS response to the latest public health advice

The safety of all those who use our buildings has been paramount throughout the pandemic. We previously indicated that we intended to remove physical distancing restrictions and ease restrictions on general public access – if positive progress continued and if public health guidance allowed.

Yesterday’s announcements take us closer to that position, although we do not intend to introduce any immediate changes from Monday 21 March. Throughout the pandemic we have robustly followed public health guidance and will continue to do so as we come out of the pandemic. Whilst some restrictions remain in place, Scotland’s courts now have capacity above pre-pandemic levels, due to the court recovery programme and innovations introduced during COVID with the support of everyone involved in the system – including the legal profession, third sector, judiciary and our staff.

The decision to extend the legal restriction on face coverings applies to SCTS premises – so it will remain a legal requirement to wear a face covering whilst on our premises – and we continue to request that all those using our buildings respect 1 metre distancing at this time.

The Scottish Government’s revised Strategic Framework makes clear that, even once legal restrictions are lifted, guidance will call on organisations to consider a range of baseline safety measures where appropriate, including:

  • enhanced hygiene and ventilation measures;
  • encouraging appropriate use of face coverings – especially in crowded environments;
  • encouraging sensible distancing to be maintained where possible, as it remains an effective mitigation against transmission; and
  • hybrid working, where possible and appropriate.

We will review the revised Scottish Government guidance as soon as it is published and update our own guidance accordingly.  We intend to remove formal physical distancing restrictions and ease restrictions on general public access to our buildings at the same time as the legal restrictions on the wearing of face coverings are removed.

Whilst case levels remain high, jurors will continue to participate in solemn business from remote jury centres – ensuring that we comply with current guidance for those members of the public who perform their civic duty to support the justice system.  However in line with the progress being made, we will commence planning with the aim of the transitioning from remote jury centres back to courts by September 2022. A smaller number of remote jury centres will be required in the longer term to enable continued use of courts which were not designed for jury business.

In the meantime, we will continue to prioritise the safety of all those using our facilities by maintaining the existing core baseline safety measures outlined below.

  • we encourage everyone to respect personal space and maintain at least 1m physical distancing in our buildings;
  • we continue to encourage good hand hygiene, maintain enhanced surface cleaning – especially of high touch-point areas – and maintain good ventilation in line with relevant guidance;
  • please take a lateral flow test before coming to our buildings - get lateral flow tests;
  • the legal requirement for face coverings to be worn in our buildings remains in place at this time;
  • our Safe2Go contact system continues to require all those accessing our buildings to check-in and check-out using the system;
  • general public access to our buildings will continue to be restricted and public counters remain closed;
  • we continue to support home working arrangements wherever possible

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we rely on, and appreciate everyone’s ongoing cooperation to enable us to continue to support justice. Please also continue to follow the current Scottish Government Guidance to help protect yourself and others.

Scottish Government guidance

  • you must continue to wear a face covering (unless exempt) in most indoor public spaces and on public transport
  • other legal COVID-19 requirements will be lifted, and replaced by guidance to encourage everyone to stay vigilant

To help keep yourself and others safe:

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