Most COVID rules in Scotland dropped from Monday
The majority of COVID restrictions in Scotland will be dropped next week as it moves “beyond level zero”, the First Minister has confirmed.
Social distancing requirements and limits on the number of people at gatherings will no longer be legally enforced from Monday 9 August.
However, face coverings will continue to be required by law and contract tracing efforts will remain live.
This means hospitality venues will still be required to collect contact details of customers.
Nicola Sturgeon, making the announcement to a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament, said the move did not “signal the end of the pandemic”.
She said: “Declaring freedom from or victory over this virus is, in my view, premature.”
Urging continued caution, the First Minister confirmed homeworking was still advised, large-scale events will still need to apply for permission to ensure mitigation measures are in place, and physical distancing is still recommended in indoor hospitality settings.
She also warned there was no “guarantee” that restrictions would not need to be reimposed.
Sturgeon added: “We will work closely with local incident management teams on appropriate outbreak control measures, including the use of localised restrictions if necessary.
“We will also continue to use travel restrictions, as and when necessary, to restrict the spread of outbreaks and protect against the risk of importation of new variants.”
Meanwhile, changes to self-isolation requirements will be made from Monday in a bid to reduce disruption.
Anyone who has received both vaccinations will be asked to get a PCR test after being identified as a close contact. If that test comes back negative, the person will no longer have to continue to isolate.
A similar change will be made for children aged 5 to 17. Under 5s will be encouraged but not required to have a PCR test.
In addition, whole school classes will no longer be asked to isolate if one pupil tests positive. Instead, children most at risk will be identified.
Face masks are to remain mandatory for staff and children over 12 in schools, though this will be kept under review. Staff must also keep a distance of one metre between each other and students.
Improvements to ventilation in education settings will be made by October half term.
The latest figures show 1,016 more people tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland, with nine deaths reported in the last 24 hours.
The number of people who have received the first dose of the vaccine stands at 4,014,212, while 3,231,331 people are double vaccinated.
Over 90 per cent of all adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine, while 93 per of over 40s have had both doses.
Sturgeon said that while take-up among 18-29 year olds was good, “we want it to be better”.
In addition, the Scottish Government has started to issue vaccination invites to high-risk teenagers and Sturgeon confirmed it also “stood ready” to begin vaccinating children should JCVI advice recommend it in the next few days.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross criticised the Scottish Government for "moving the goalposts".
He said: “Continuing with so many COVID restrictions indefinitely will hold Scotland’s recovery back. These restrictions will have serious consequences for businesses, family finances and young people’s education.
“We have moved beyond Level 0 but the government are still clinging to control over large parts of people’s lives.
“The goalposts have been moved again. We are now stuck in a new Level -1.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar welcomed the easing of restrictions, but urged the Scottish Government to work to increase the number of people coming forward for vaccinations.
He said: “As we move 'beyond level 0' it is important that we do everything to protect the freedom people can now enjoy again.
“It means retooling our vaccination effort to target those places where it lags and preparing it for the next big challenge.
“The last few weeks have underlined the importance of Test and Protect and if increased testing is the alternative to self-isolation then we cannot allow the resourcing of the test and tracing system to again be neglected.
“But we all know how key vaccination is and so we must maintain the progress and intensity of the programme.
“In recent weeks the 7-day rate of vaccinations has reduced and there are still thousands of young people awaiting their first, never mind second dose. We should be doing all we can to remove barriers to vaccination and encourage uptake.”