THE First Minister has hit back at suggestions she published new guidance on face coverings ahead of a UK-wide announcement in order to embarrass the Boris Johnson Government.

Nicola Sturgeon made the intervention as she responded to a tweet after she had spoken about the Scottish Government’s updated advice at the daily press briefing.

She highlighted a comment made by the Sun’s political editor Tom Newton Dunn, who wrote: “Yet again, Sturgeon announces a measure before the UK Govt. If it’s not a concerted attempt to embarrass Westminster, it’s having precisely that effect anyway.”

She replied: “I’m just trying to do my job – as every other government is.

“This tendency to read malign motives when all any of us is trying to do is tackle the virus as best we can, is tedious and misplaced.”

At the briefing, the First Minister said the Scottish Government advice was voluntary due to the relatively weak evidence around face coverings, and their use was not designed as a substitute for social distancing rules. The UK Government’s expert advisory group Sage has come to its recommendation on the use of face masks and coverings and has handed it to the Prime Minister and his colleagues, but as yet there has been no announcement of a decision.

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The guidance, published on the Scottish Government website, says: “Physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene are the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Therefore, the wearing of facial coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions.

“The evidence on the use of face coverings is limited but there may be some benefit in wearing a facial covering when you leave the house and enter enclosed spaces, especially where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people you do not usually meet.

“Examples include travelling on public transport or entering a food shop where it is not always possible to maintain a two metre distance from another customer.

“There is no evidence to suggest there might be a benefit outdoors, unless in an unavoidable crowded situation, where there may be some benefit.

“As some people can have the virus but experience no symptoms ... wearing a face covering in the situations outlined above may provide some level of protection against transmission to other people in close proximity.

“However, it remains the case that anyone with symptoms and all members of their household (whether they have symptoms or not) must self-isolate and adhere to the guidance on individual and household isolation on NHS Inform.

“By face coverings, we do not mean the wearing of a surgical or other medical grade mask but a facial covering of the mouth and nose, that is made of cloth or other textiles and through which you can breathe, for example a scarf. When applying or removing the covering, it is important that you wash your hands first and avoid touching your face. After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade or dispose of safely.”

The Scottish Government is not recommending the use of face coverings for children under two.