NICOLA Sturgeon has said she is considering making face coverings mandatory in shops, public transport and enclosed spaces amid fears too few people are wearing them.

The First Minister said she thought the measure would be “inevitable”, although she added no final decision had yet been made.

Earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon also threatened to legislate to clamp down on travel and socialising after mass breaches of the guidance when the lockdown eased last Friday.   

Countries in which face coverings are common, such as South Korea, have seen far fewer Covid deaths than the UK.

The Scottish Government first advised people to wear face coverings in shops and on public transport on April 28 to help guard against spreading the coronavirus.

However this has always been voluntary, not compulsory. 

At the Scottish Government daily briefing, th First Minister announced another nine people had died overnight from coronavirus in Scotland, taking the laboratory confirmed total to 2,395.

She said this was the first time deaths had been in single figures on a week day (when reporting is more comprehensive than at weekends) since March 27.

She also said the R number, the rate oof reproductions, had dropped slightly from a range of 0.7 to 1 to a range of 0.7 to 0.9 over the last week.

However she said the latest R number did not take into account the first weekend of the lockdown easing last weekend, when thousands of families met up and road traffic surged 70 per cent. 

She stressed Covid remained an ongoing threat and urged households which met outdoors last weekend in the sun not to move indoors if the weather was poor this weekend, as the rate of transmission was far higher indoors than in the open air.

Asked if she was considering making face coverings mandatory, she said: “Yes, it is under consideration. I said when I announced the policy some weeks back that we would kep the policy under review.

"So we haven’t reached a final position on this, but it is fair to say it is something that we are considering. I think that is inevitable.

“I understand why some people may not want to wear face coverings. It’s not the most comfortable thing to do. The scientific advice and evidence on this is not overwhelming, but there is a benefit to be had.

“If you wear a face covering in an enclosed space where physical distancing is a bit more difficult, there is some evidence that you wearing a face covering can protect someone else.

“If you have the virus, and if you’re not symptomatic you may not know it, you can then protect or minimise the risk of your transmitting the virus to somebody else. Of course another person wearing a face mask is protecting you the same way.”

She said wanted to “strongly encourage people” to wear face coverings as advised.

“If you haven’t already been doing it, or if you started to do it, found it uncomfortable and haven’t continued - please, please consider this very carefully, because we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the risk of transmission.”

She said coverings could be made at home, advised the public against trying to source medical-grade masks needed by the NHS and care sector. 

“These are things we encourage people to make at home. You can make these things from cloth, textiles, old T-shirts, for example and there’s plenty of advice out there to do that,” she said.

She said there would be exemptions for health reasons and for some age groups, such as young children, if face coverings did become mandatory. 

She said: “For people who have asthma for example it would not be reasonable to insist that they wear face masks. So these are careful judgments and they have to be very carefully considered.

“But as we open up more, particularly as more people go back to work in the future, and more people use public transport, I think that we will want to see people where they can wearing a face covering.

"If we have to change the nature and the status of the advice we’re giving to people to make that happen, that has clearly got to be something that we are prepared to keep under consideration.”

Ms Sturgeon’s comment follow MSPs expressing concern about the number of people following the current non-mandatory guidance.

At Holyrood’s Covid-19 committee on Wednesday, Annabelle Ewing, the SNP MSP for Cowdenbeath, said: “I was at a supermarket last night. I think I was the only person in the entire shop wearing a face covering. I know the message is, that we should be doing this, but evidently more people are not yet doing that.” 

Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell agreed there was a problem. 

He said: “I have noticed myself, wearing a face covering at a filling station, I was the only person who was doing so. I know there’s an awful of thinking going on about that. 

“I would encourage people to wear one, and to wear one when in shops.

“Sometimes I think people think they’re going to be stared at or looked at.

“We should get to the stage where, if everybody’s doing it, then the person who’s not doing it is the person who’s looked at and stared at.

“So I think you’re right, and I think we need to look at that very, very seriously.

“There has been a debate about the efficacy of it, but I think there is a growing public view that we should see it more.”