THE legal requirement for Scots to wear face coverings in some indoor settings will be extended, the First Minister has announced.

The news came as Nicola Sturgeon addressed the Scottish Parliament to give an update on the pandemic.

Sturgeon was speaking after newly released figures showed that Scotland has recorded almost 40,000 new Covid cases since last week. She said that the country was recording just over 12,000 new cases per day on average, up from 6900 three weeks ago.

The First Minister said that the BA2 variant of Omicron, "which is estimated to be significantly more transmissible", was now the dominant strain in Scotland, accounting for 80% of cases.

READ MORE: Almost 40,000 new Covid cases recorded in Scotland as infections soar

She said that the spread of this newest subvariant had been slower south of the Border, which accounted for the slower rise in cases there.

The First Minister announced that the legal requirement to wear face coverings in certain public spaces, which had been due to lapse on Monday, March 21, would be extended for two weeks.

Scots will still be legally required to wear facemasks until the Easter recess (April 2), Sturgeon said, when the rule will be reviewed again.

However, the SNP leader said that this rule was "the exception", and that other legal requirements - such as for businesses to collect customer data - would end.

On testing, The First Minister said that Scotland was “aiming for the same long term position as England”.

She went on: “In England, testing for people without symptoms ended in mid-February, and will do so at the end of this month for those with symptoms.

“We intend the transition to last until the end of April.”

She said that until April 18 the Government would still advise everyone, regardless of symptoms, to test for Covid twice weekly. However, from that date this advice will lapse “with the exception of health and care settings”.

The Government’s current plan is that, from the end of April, “all routine population-wide testing will end”. Physical test sites will close, and contact tracing will end.

READ MORE: Interactive map: Where are Scotland's Covid cases today?

However, the First Minister said that mobile testing units would be kept in place “for our longer-term testing purposes”.

Sturgeon added: "From May 1, instead of a population-wide approach, we will use testing on a targeted basis - to support clinical care and treatment and protect higher risk settings, and for surveillance, outbreak management and responding to significant developments, such as a new variant.

"Let me stress that for any purpose for which we continue to advise testing, access to tests will, in Scotland, remain free of charge."

Writing on Twitter ahead of the announcement, Scottish Tory chief whip Stephen Kerr raged against further restrictions.

He wrote: "The Scottish Government U-turns on removing the last Covid restrictions.

"Will they treat the Scottish people as adults, and back up their reasoning by releasing the data? Or will it be another 'we say, you do' diktat from the SNP?"

The First Minister did confirm that Scotland has recorded almost 40,000 new Covid-19 cases, while another 25 people have died after contracting the virus.

The latest daily statistics include a backlog from Monday, when a technical issue meant the Government was unable to publish data on new cases. Public Health Scotland says the new figures also include previously unreported cases since Saturday.

Sturgeon confirmed a total of 38,770 new cases on Tuesday.

The 25 deaths, among people who tested positive in the previous 28 days, bring the total under that measure to 11,016.

Some 1996 people with recently confirmed Covid were in hospital on Monday, up 191 on Monday.

Of those patients, 33 were in intensive care, up by six.

A total of 4,441,175 people have received their first Covid jag, 4,171,128 have received their second, and 3,468,504 have received a third dose or booster.