Covid restrictions lifted as Scotland exits level zero

Scotland has left its final level of coronavirus restrictions.

Level zero ended at midnight with almost all of the remaining anti-Covid measures now removed.

The legal requirement for physical distancing has stopped in most places and hospitality venues are now allowed to open at full capacity. Large outdoor gatherings can now go ahead.

But the health secretary urged caution, warning the public “the virus is still with us”.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced at her last update that Monday 9 August would see almost all restrictions lifted.

The restrictions which remain are:

  • the requirement to wear face coverings indoors in public places and on public transport
  • pupils and teachers must continue wearing masks indoors for up to six weeks after schools return
  • school staff must keep at least 1m distance from each other and from children and young people while on the school estate
  • 2m distancing should still be observed in healthcare settings
  • office workers should still work from home, where possible
  • details still need to be given at hospitality venues for test and protect

There are also new rules on self-isolation for close contacts of positive cases.

Double-vaccinated adults and all children can now avoid self-isolation if identified as a close contact so long as they are symptomless and provide a negative PCR test.

Whole classes in schools will no longer have to stay at home if an infection is discovered, although children and adults who are higher-risk close contacts will be told to isolate.

The new rules also signal the return of outdoor events of more than 5,000 people and indoor events of more than 2,000 – but they must apply for permission from local authorities and the government to go ahead.

On Saturday, Ms Sturgeon said that Scotland was in a “much better position” with Covid-19 than could have been expected at the start of summer, but she also urged Scots to “continue to take sensible precautions” despite many of the legal coronavirus rules being lifted.

‘Enjoy yourself but be sensible’

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf also urged caution.

On Sunday, he said the Scottish government was reluctant to use the term “freedom day” because Covid was “still here”.

He told BBC Scotland News: “Today is a really important day. People have been living with the harshest restrictions in their personal lives that any of us will ever remember, and they have been doing so on and off for 17-18 months.

“It has been really challenging for people, so I would enjoy this day but also please remember that the virus is still with us.

“That’s why you’ll have to continue to wear face masks in indoor settings and continue to give your details in terms of test and protect when you go to hospitality. Enjoy yourself but continue to be sensible.”

Nightclubs are now able to open for the first time since the pandemic began.

Caroline Campbell, director of the Ironworks venue in Inverness, was looking forward to welcoming back staff and customers.

She said: “It has been a very long 18 months, not just for businesses in our industry but all businesses having to operate under restrictions.

“I am very much looking forward to opening my front door again and having my staff back. But everybody knows that Covid is not over and some limited restrictions will still be in place for a period of time.”

‘Rush of promoters’

She said there had been “a rush” of promoters confirming dates at the music venue and they were starting to put tickets on sale for shows. They also had to re-stock to deal with a venue at full capacity.

The end of social distancing means public transport can carry its full number of passengers again – this will be welcomed by Scotland’s ferries which have been running at well below the normal capacity.

It also means many venues and attractions which could not operate within the rules can now reopen. And those that were running limited services are easing their own restrictions.

A spokeswoman for Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said: “In line with many other attractions, we’ll be gradually increasing capacities at our sites including Edinburgh Castle, however, to guarantee entry, we would recommend that visitors continue to pre-book tickets. We’ll also continue to ask visitors to wear masks in enclosed areas, unless exempt, in line with Scottish government guidance.”

National Galleries said it would work with a blended model of pre-booked and walk-up tickets and Edinburgh Zoo will start to increase capacity from 18 August when members will no longer need to book.

Scotland reported 1,240 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, 146 fewer than the 1,386 reported 24 hours earlier.

‘It will go well’

Edinburgh University public health expert Prof Linda Bauld said the signs were encouraging for life beyond level zero.

She told BBC Scotland: “It’s a natural next step. We had a peak of about 4,000 cases per 200,000 in early July but that’s dropped by two thirds.

“Hospital admissions peaked around 19 July and have been consistently declining. We’ve seen fewer people in ICU and just this last week a reduction in mortality even though those have been low due to vaccines.”

“We have a few weeks of summer left and I think that will go well.”

 

 

 

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