NHS Highland has introduced stricter guidelines in hospitals and care settings amid rising cases of Covid-19 and a more transmissable variant in the region.
The health board, which also oversees Argyll and Bute, said staff, patients and visitors will now be required to wear Fluid Resistant Surgical Masks (FRSM) “instead of face coverings”.
The change in policy was prompted by discussions with infection control officials and the board said FRSM PPE would be provided.
The latest figures show Highland recorded 288 positive cases from January 11 to 17. In the Argyle and Bute area cases are highest in areas including Helensburgh, Garelochhead and Loch Awe.
The statement said the guidance would also apply to non-clinical staff who are moving between departments.
It reads: “With COVID-19 more prevalent here than previously, and the new more transmissible variant present, NHS Highland has updated its guidance on face coverings and masks.
“With immediate effect all visitors, patients and staff should put on an FRSM rather than a face covering when coming into the care facility.
“This guidance also applies to all non-clinical / patient-facing staff when it is not possible for them to physically distance from colleagues within offices or moving between departments.
“Staff who work in non-clinical shared office spaces should also ensure they are using an FRSM.”