Humza Yousaf was told by Nicola Sturgeon’s most high-profile medical adviser to “hold a drink at all times” in order to get round her rules on wearing a face mask when he was Health Secretary, the Covid Inquiry has heard. The Telegraph has the story.
Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s National Clinical Director, became the latest senior figure from Ms. Sturgeon’s Government to admit that he had deleted all of his WhatsApp messages from the pandemic.
But messages obtained from others showed Mr. Yousaf asked Prof. Leitch what the rules were for wearing a mask at a dinner he was attending on November 19th 2021.
Mr. Yousaf said he knew that he did not have to wear a mask when seated but did not know the rules around whether he needed one when “standing talking to folk”, despite being the Health Secretary at the time.
Prof. Leitch replied: “Officially yes. But literally no one does. Have a drink in your hands at ALL times. Then you’re exempt. So if someone comes over and you stand, lift your drink.”
Jamie Dawson KC, Counsel to the inquiry, challenged Prof. Leitch that he was advising Mr Yousaf how to avoid the SNP Government’s own rules using a “workaround”.
He asked: “If the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care didn’t understand the rules, what chance did anybody else have?”
Prof. Leitch denied it was a workaround, saying it was a “tricky area” and argued that the advice “follows the rules” as people were allowed to stand and talk without a mask if they were drinking.
He admitted breaking the same rules by being photographed standing without a mask at a dinner but argued it was “legitimate” as it was a “social occasion”.
However, Mr. Dawson said: “You told him (Yousaf) to have a drink in his hands at all times whether he was drinking it or not.”
Prof. Leitch became a household name in Scotland during the pandemic as he conducted many of the daily televised Covid briefings with Ms. Sturgeon.