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Nicola Sturgeon announces plans for return to ‘very significant degree of normality’ with further lifting of COVID restrictions from 19 July

Nicola Sturgeon with a face mask - Image credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images

Nicola Sturgeon announces plans for return to ‘very significant degree of normality’ with further lifting of COVID restrictions from 19 July

The First Minister has announced plans for a “very significant degree of normality” over the summer, with the next phase of lifting of coronavirus restrictions planned for 19 July and the hope that most major restrictions will be lifted from 9 August.

In a statement to parliament Nicola Sturgeon confirmed what she had suggested on Friday, that no part of Scotland will change levels this week.

However, she announced the intention of moving the whole of Scotland to level 0 at the next review point on 19 July, with a further move beyond level 0 on 9 August once the over-40s had had two doses of the vaccine.

Although the lifting of restrictions on those dates is still subject to the continued successful vaccine rollout and being able to suppress the virus enough to alleviate its harms, Sturgeon said the announcement was “intended to give as much clarity as possible”.

A few minor changes to restrictions around weddings and funerals will take place from 28 June, with those working on the events no longer included in the numbers, live entertainment allowed at receptions, no need for a facemask when walking someone down the aisle and members of more than one household allowed to carry a coffin.

However, if the move to level 0 goes ahead on 19 July, this will see more significant changes such as the number of people allowed at indoor household gatherings increasing and up to 200 people allowed at weddings and funerals.

At that point, the First Minister said she hoped to reduce the indoor physical distancing requirement indoors from two metres to one metre and remove it altogether for those meeting up outdoors.

She said they also hoped to remove restrictions on the number of people attending informal gatherings outdoors, although there will still be restrictions on the numbers at formal, organised events, as those tend to attract larger numbers of people.

Sturgeon said this would be a “significant step back to normality”, but added: “We want to move beyond level 0 a quickly as it is prudent to do so.”

She said they hoped to lift the “major, remaining restrictions” on 9 August.

That could include dropping the requirement for physical distancing indoors, although some precautions would still be in place, such as regular hand washing, cleaning surfaces, good ventilation and wearing face masks on transport and in shops.

This would be a return to “almost complete normality”, she said.

She said that from 19 July and “more substantially” from 9 August, “life should feel much, much less restricted for all of us” and that a “very significant degree of normality should be restored for individuals and businesses”.

But she also warned: “While this is a longed-for moment, it is important to recognise we still have a difficult path to navigate over the next few weeks to meet these milestones, and even if we do, the pandemic will not be completely over by this stage.”

The First Minister said there would not be a full return to office-based working from 9 August, but the Scottish Government would discuss a “phased” return from 19 July with the business community, although she expected increased homeworking to continue.

Sturgeon also warned that travel restrictions were likely to continue.

The lifting of restrictions of restrictions on 19 July and 9 August is contingent on the continued successful vaccine rollout and achieving the government’s new aim of alleviating the harms of the virus, which replaces the previous aim of suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level now that vaccination is beginning to take the place of restrictions.

Sturgeon announced the intention that all adults in Scotland would have received two doses of the vaccine by 12 September, with those in the nine priority categories to have been offered a second dose by this Sunday, 40-49-year-olds by 26 July, 30-39-year-olds by 20 August and 18-29-year-olds by 12 September.

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