Lockdown restrictions in Scotland will be eased from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon has said – but with certain conditions.
The First Minister told the Scottish Parliament that the country would move to Level 0 but face masks will remain “mandatory”.
Ms Sturgeon said physical distancing in Level 0 will reduce to one metre in all indoor public settings and outdoors.
But she went on to say that it is a time for “continued caution” and that lifting all restrictions would put people at greater threat and would “risk the imposition of shielding by default”.
Speaking during a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said lifting certain mitigations would “put all of us at greater risk”, as some measures are relaxed.
She added: “So while Scotland will move to Level 0 from next Monday, we will do so with certain modifications to our indicative plans.
“This is intended to ensure that our pace of easing restrictions is sensible in light of the challenge we continue to face from the Delta variant.”
- Scotland will lift restrictions on 19 July but face masks will remain mandatory
- Up to eight people can meet indoors from four households from Monday
- 10 people from four households can meet in an indoor public place
- Pubs and restaurants can stay open until midnight – scrapping 11pm curfew
- Working from home should continue where possible until 9 August
- Fully vaccinated travellers coming from amber list countries will no longer have to self-isolate
- There are still reasons to be concerned amid high case numbers and hospital admissions
- Scotland records 2,529 new coronavirus cases and four new deaths in past 24 hours
She confirmed that certain measures including the mandatory wearing of face masks would remain in place for some time to come.
“Measures like the continued wearing of face coverings are important, not just to give added protection to the population as a whole, but also to give protection and assurance to those amongst us who are particularly vulnerable and previously had to shield,” she continued.
Ms Sturgeon’s latest announcement means the number of people who can meet indoors will rise to eight people from four households from Monday.
Meanwhile, 10 people from four households will be able to meet in an indoor public place such as a pub.
Under the new rules, 15 people from 15 households can meet outdoors.
The new rules also mean that hospitality businesses like pubs and restaurants will be able to open until midnight – scrapping the previous 11pm closure time – while soft play centres in areas moving from Level 2 can also reopen.
However, nightclubs and adult entertainment will have to remain shut.
Mass stadium events will also be able to admit more people, with 2,000 seated patrons and 1,000 standing, while indoor events will be limited to 400 people.
Fully vaccinated travellers and children arriving into Scotland from amber list countries will no longer be required to self-isolate and take a day eight test from Monday, but adults and children over 12 will still take tests before travelling and on day two after arrival.
Anyone testing positive for or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will still require to isolate for 10 days.
Ms Sturgeon also said that Scotland must not treat young people “as an experiment” when it comes to Long COVID.
But the First Minister said working from home should continue where possible.
She said the “gradual return” would be delayed until all the country moves beyond Level 0 – hoped to be on 9 August.
She said hospital admissions and intensive care admissions should be taken seriously to limit the amount of Long COVID seen in Scotland.
“Indeed, it is one of the main reasons that we cannot be complacent about young people getting the virus,” Ms Sturgeon added.
“To say that it doesn’t matter – when we don’t yet fully understand what the long-term consequences might be – would risk treating the younger generation as an experiment. We should not do that.”
Analysis by James Matthews, Scotland correspondent
Not a day to cry freedom. Not for Nicola Sturgeon, who’d already prepared Scotland for pulling the reins.
She had signposted that planned dates for easing restrictions were not “set in stone”. She had little choice following a period in which Scotland had the worst daily case rates in Europe.
It was clear the first minister would neither stick nor twist but, instead, opt for a bit of both.
Public health consultants have warned that on infection numbers, deaths and the ability of hospitals to cope, Scotland’s situation remains fragile.
Nicola Sturgeon would have considered their concerns as she mulled over her next move with cabinet colleagues on Tuesday morning.
She would have heard, too, the full-throated cry of “irresponsible” from senior doctors south of the border as they denounced Boris Johnson’s plans to lift most of the last remaining restrictions.
By now, there’s an expectation of divergence from the Downing Street line. It has become the political given throughout the COVID pandemic.
Sadly, neither first Minister nor prime minister can deliver the scientific certainty of what lies beyond the latest fork in the road.