Easing delayed amid positive results from test events
Nicola Sturgeon: aim is to remove physical distancing
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today confirmed that Scotland should move out of Covid restrictions by early August.
Ms Sturgeon said the majority of Scotland will remain in level one restrictions, with most of the central belt including Edinburgh and Glasgow remaining in level two until 19 July.
Physical distancing will then move to one metre from two, and the requirement to socially distance outside will be dropped.
Ms Sturgeon said she expects a further lifting of the “major” restrictions on 9 August.
Cases of Covid-19 have been steadily rising since early May with transmission believed to be driven by the new Delta variant.
The First Minister said: “Ultimately we hope to remove the legal requirement for physical distancing – even though we may for a period continue to advise people to think about safe distancing when interacting with people outside their close contact groups.”
There were signs of encouragement from England where there were no coronavirus outbreaks at piloted non-socially distanced mass events.
It has raised hopes that festivals, nightclubs and sporting matches can reopen at full capacity in England after 19 July.
UK Culture minister Nigel Huddleston said the trial events, including the FA Cup final at Wembley and the Brit Awards, had not caused any clusters of infections.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said mass vaccinations for all over-18s would end hasten the end of Scotland’s ongoing crippling lockdown measures.
“The data shows that numbers are soaring among young adults and falling in older age-groups, which is a clear sign of the vaccination programme’s success,” he said.
SHG members have offered to close their businesses to enable staff to get vaccinated en masse at suitable times when vaccine centres may be less busy.
The offer has come after walk-in vaccinations for over 18s became widely available in England, however in Scotland drop in vaccination centres for over 18s are limited to select health boards.
Scotland’s hospitality sector supports a workforce predominantly under the age of 25, who are having to self-isolate under the current restrictions if they test positive.
As a result, hundreds of Scottish pubs and restaurants and wider businesses are closing their doors, which Stephen Montgomery claims, “would be entirely preventable if we caught up with the vaccination programme in England.”
Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said: “There will undoubtedly be some dismay from hard-hit hospitality, leisure and tourism firms that will endure unchanged restriction levels into July, and the announcement brings into sharp relief the need to better support an international travel sector that’s so important to Scotland’s economy.
“Above all, it’s good to see the Scottish Government taking tangible steps towards living with the virus.”
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “The First Minister’s announcement that the easing of restrictions will be delayed for the next three weeks will be disappointing for tourism businesses across Scotland, despite this being what we had all anticipated, particularly with schools breaking up this week and people planning days out and holidays.
“This is particularly impactful on larger self-catering properties where the restrictions on the number of people who can stay in one property remain in place; 19 July is almost three weeks into our summer season and I know that many within the self-catering sector will be extremely anxious about business losses during this period and will be hoping there will be some more support to compensate.”