DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney has been accused of sharing a “misleading” public health graphic on the day that Scotland moves to level 0 restrictions.

Mr Swinney, who is also the Scottish Government’s Covid Recovery Secretary, tweeted an image with claims about the protection gained by the use of face coverings.

The graphic claims that there is 0% risk of transmission if people stand six feet apart and both are wearing a mask.

The points do not appear to be supported by evidence and the original source of the graphic is not apparent.

The Scottish Government has been unable to clarify the source of the tweet.

At a Scottish Government coronavirus briefing last year, national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch said that “face coverings are an important element of risk reduction, but they do not make you invincible”.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has previously warned that “it is not known how much the use of masks in the community can contribute to a decrease in transmission in addition to other countermeasures”.

A UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) document published last year states that “widespread application of face coverings as a source control is likely to have a small but significant impact on population level transmission, through reducing the shedding of virus by people who may be unknowingly infected and without symptoms”. 

It adds: “The benefit is difficult to quantify, but estimates range from 7-45%. It is difficult in these studies to separate out the effect of face coverings compared to other interventions used at the same time.”

Scottish Conservative shadow secretary for health, Annie Wells, said: “John Swinney should delete this misleading graphic.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: 1,464 new cases and no deaths registered in 24 hours

“It wrongly sends a message that there is no risk from Covid in certain circumstances and makes several claims that appear to be unfounded.

“This looks unnecessarily reckless coming from a senior SNP Government minister.”

She added: “We’ve all got a duty to call out fake news and this misleading post blurs the well-intentioned message he seems to be trying to send that wearing masks can reduce the spread of the virus.

“The Covid Recovery Secretary needs to wise up and be more careful when sending public health messages, especially on the day that restrictions are eased across Scotland.”

Despite being unable to confirm whether two people wearing masks standing six feet away have 0% chance of transmitting Covid-19, the Scottish Government has accused opponents of undermining health messaging.

A spokesperson said: “The science – and the DFM’s message – is clear: masks and physical distancing help prevent transmission of Covid-19, and it is important people do not undermine public health messaging by suggesting otherwise.”