Hug life: cuddle ban over as First Minister says 'you can hug your loved ones again'
Nicola Sturgeon has told Scots they will be able to hug loved ones from next week, after the Scottish Government changed guidance on physical distancing.
In the first COVID briefing since the election, the First Minister confirmed that most of mainland Scotland would, as planned, move down to level two of the coronavirus restrictions on Monday 17 May.
That means being able to meet inside a home, drinking alcohol inside a pub or restaurant, the reintroduction of adult contact sports and meeting eight people from eight households outdoors.
Cinemas, theatres, concert halls and bingo halls, comedy clubs, and amusement arcades will also be able to reopen.
In a slight tweaking of the plans, Sturgeon said the government felt comfortable enough to up the number of people who can meet indoors to a maximum six people from three households.
In another change, low infection numbers and high vaccine coverage on the islands means they can move down to level one, with the exception of Skye.
However, Moray is set to remain in level three, after a spike in cases in recent days. The First Minister warned that the government may even need to impose travel restrictions - stopping people leaving the region without good reason.
“The situation in Moray, together with the emergence of new variants globally, should be a sharp reminder to all of us that the virus remains a real threat,” Sturgeon said.
Announcing the change in physical distancing, the First Minister said the success of the vaccination programme along with compliance of restrictions meant a significant fall in COVID infection rates.
In the last three weeks case numbers have dropped from an average of 226 per day to 177 per day.
Sturgeon said: “We must all continue to be careful, responsible and vigilant, and of course, our levels system means that we can and will, if required, as you will see today, apply the brakes to deal with outbreaks, as they arise.
“However, the situation overall is now a very positive one, and so that means we are in a position to relax more restrictions and to restore much more normality to everyday life, which is something that everybody is desperate to see.”
The First Minister said the from Monday: “If you are meeting friends and family, within the permitted limits of course, either indoors in a private dwelling, a house, or in your garden our guidance will say that it is no longer necessary to maintain physical distance, which means, and I'm a getting a bit emotional saying this, that from Monday, as long as you stay within permitted limits, you can hug your loved ones again.”
She said it was “vital to be cautious.”
The First Minister also announced a wider review of physical distancing, to be published in the coming weeks.
Sturgeon also confirmed a change to the rules around international travel, with Scotland adopting a similar traffic lights system to England.
She said: "At the outset, let me be very clear that we still intend to be highly cautious on international travel - given the risk of new variants - but we consider that the situation now allows us to begin a careful move away from blanket restrictions on non-essential travel.
"From Monday, we will move to a traffic light system, informed by risk assessments prepared by the Joint Biosecurity Centre. These assessments will be based on the state of the pandemic in each country across the world - including the presence of variants of concern."