Nicola Sturgeon urged to stop ‘constant meddling with Covid rules’ and ‘trust the public’s judgement’
Political rivals warned the First Minister’s ongoing tweaks were playing havoc with Scots’ lives and called on ministers to trust the public’s judgement in dealing with the virus.
Hospitality firms also hit out as restrictions including nightclub closures were extended for at least another week until January 24 — as capacity crowds got the green light to return to footie and rugby grounds from Monday.
It came as Ms Sturgeon revealed Nats ministers were reconsidering whether to expand the jabs passport scheme to more premises after previously backing away from its use in pubs and restaurants.
And she announced the Scottish Government will publish plans on how the country will live with Covid “in the medium to long term” without restrictive measures.
Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the updated plan must recognise that “we will be living with Covid in some form for years to come”.
And he called for “clear trigger points for any future restrictions” as well as details of cash support that would be available for firms.
He told MSPs: “People cannot live their lives waiting for ad-hoc updates on what the rules will be day-to-day. Businesses and workers cannot plan for the future properly if they cannot predict the Government’s response.”
Scots Tory chief Douglas Ross said: “The First Minister says we need to learn to live with Covid.
“But, after more than two years, people across Scotland have already learned to live with Covid.
“By now, people understand what’s necessary to combat this virus. We have to trust their judgement more as we move forward.
“That’s why it is so disappointing to see the Government again looking to extend the vaccine passport scheme.”
And Lib Dem boss Alex Cole-Hamilton branded the prospect of rolling out the Covid ID scheme as “highly concerning”.
In her Holyrood update, Ms Sturgeon lifted the 500-person limit on outdoor events as planned.
It means crowds can flock back to football games including Monday night’s Premiership clash between Celtic and Hibs at Parkhead.
And rugby fans can attend Murrayfield for the Six Nations tournament starting in February.
But the SNP boss extended restrictions on indoor events and hospitality, including the closure of nightclubs and keeping mandatory table service in pubs, due to the “fragile” state of the pandemic.
Ms Sturgeon said people would now need to have had a booster to be deemed fully vaccinated for the use of jag passports.
And she said organisers of large events with more than 1,000 people would have to check the certification status of at least 50 per cent of attendees or of at least 1,000 people, depending on which figure is higher. The previous figure was 20 per cent.
People are able to show a negative lateral flow test result as an alternative to gain entry to some larger gatherings and nightclubs.
The First Minister insisted it was “prudent to remain careful and cautious” despite “signs we may be starting to turn a corner”.
She added: “As we do lift these other protective measures, it will be necessary to consider again if extending the scope of Covid certification to other venues might be a necessary protection.
“To be clear, we have not yet taken any decisions on this and it will require careful judgment.
“But I want to be clear that it is something we feel bound to give appropriate consideration to.”
It later emerged a ban on non-professional adult indoor contact sports such as five-a-side footie, basketball, boxing, hockey, karate, netball and squash would also continue until at least January 24, though this was not mentioned in the First Minister’s speech.
Hospitality chiefs last night told how they had been left in limbo ahead of a further update on easing curbs next Tuesday.
Leon Thompson, executive director of UKHospitality Scotland, said: “Businesses needed to hear that restrictions on them would be removed next week.
“Instead, whilst people will be able to attend capacity sporting events from Monday, hospitality businesses will remain bound by table service, physical distancing and nightclubs closed.
“Businesses and their workforce are left to wait a further week to hear when things might change for them. In the meantime, hospitality businesses in England trade with far fewer restrictions and Covid cases remain lower.”
A spokeswoman for the Night Time Industries Association Scotland also said the curbs extension was “disappointing” as data suggests a “positive downward trend in hospitalisation and serious health outcomes” from Omicron.
She added: “It is very worrying that the First Minister has also suggested an extension of the vaccine passport scheme to additional settings.”
Ms Sturgeon announced four days before Christmas that the curbs on big events and hospitality would be in place for three weeks starting from December 26 and 27.
Yesterday she admitted there was “some hope that cases may be at or close to the peak” of the Omicron wave after a 17 per cent drop in the average number of new infections being confirmed via PCR tests in the most recent week.
But she said changes to testing rules — with those who get a positive lateral flow result at home no longer having to go for a confirmatory PCR and close contacts being told to do lateral flows for a week instead of booking a PCR — mean the data will have to be studied further.
A further 10,392 cases were announced yesterday. Some 1,479 people are in hospital, including 54 in intensive care, and there have been an additional 16 deaths.