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Wearing of face coverings vital to limit COVID-19 spread.

Abuse directed at retail and bar staff who ask customers to comply with the law and wear face coverings will not be tolerated, Justice Secretary Keith Brown has said.

It continues to be a legal requirement to wear face coverings in places such as shops and pubs and on public transport unless exempt – and Mr Brown said any form of abuse, threats or violence faced by workers as a result of simply doing their job is “completely unacceptable”.

It comes as new powers came into force in Scotland last month, making assaulting, threating or abusing certain staff a new standalone offence. Previously such conduct would be dealt with under more general offences.

Face coverings are a hugely important mitigation in the fight against COVID-19 as they create a physical barrier that helps stop the virus spreading from an infected person, while providing a degree of protection to the wearer against exposure to the virus.

Mr Brown urged people to follow the rules and treat staff with respect as Scotland continued to face high infection levels.

He said:

“I would like to thank the vast majority of people who continue to wear face coverings and urge people to please follow the rules and guidelines still in place. It is still a requirement to wear face coverings in indoor public places, such as shops, public transport and when entering and moving about in hospitality settings.

“Everyone who can should wear a face covering because it is a simple and vital measure we can take to protect others and stem the spread of this deadly virus.

“Retail workers and those working in hospitality play a vital role serving our communities which has been clearly demonstrated throughout the pandemic and it’s extremely important they know they have the protection of the law when carrying out their duties.

“Any form of abuse, threats or violence faced by such workers as a result of simply doing their job is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

“Parliament recently introduced a standalone law with penalties of up to 12 months in prison and fines up to £10,000 for this type of behaviour and staff serving communities across Scotland can be assured the police and prosecution services stand ready to respond to any instances as necessary.”

DCC Malcolm Graham of Police Scotland said:

“Everyone has the right to go to their work without being threatened or assaulted.

“Retail workers now have added protection in law and the police will act on reports we receive about this kind of unacceptable behaviour.

“I would also continue to encourage people to follow the regulations and guidance that remain in place to help stop the spread of coronavirus.”

Solicitor General for Scotland Ruth Charteris QC said:

“People in any walk of life should expect to go about their business without the fear of threats or abuse.

“This is true of shop workers who are protected in law and deserve our thanks and appreciation for the work they have done throughout the pandemic.”

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