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by Andrew Learmonth
11 May 2021
Nicola Sturgeon set to announce major easing of coronavirus restrictions

Nicola Sturgeon set to announce major easing of coronavirus restrictions

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to confirm a major relaxation of the COVID rules today.

The First Minister will likely say that from next Monday, Scots will be allowed to socialise at home in groups of up to four people from two households, while six people from three households can socialise in public places. 

Other changes will include a return of contact sports, pubs being allowed to sell alcohol indoors until 10.30pm and cinemas and bingo halls able to reopen.

Theatres and concert venues should be allowed to open their doors too - although with social distancing of two metres still in place, it will be tricky for many to operate. 

Soft play centres, funfairs, bowling alleys, snooker and pool halls and nightclubs will have to remain closed for now.

Yesterday, the UK-wide COVID-19 alert level was downgraded after a “consistent” fall in cases, hospital admissions and deaths. That led to Boris Johnson announcing an easing of the rules in England, including an ending of the "ban on hugging". 

Speaking ahead of today's coronavirus update, Sturgeon said: “Continuing the fight against COVID and guiding the country safely through the rest of the pandemic is my number one priority.

“Since the election, I have been back at my desk, consulting with clinical advisers on our next steps as we gradually hope to return the country to something much more like normality.

“Today we will outline those latest steps in lifting restrictions, while also making clear that we need to remain vigilant against any resurgence in COVID levels across Scotland.

“With the renewed mandate we have been given by the people of Scotland, I will this week also start to take forward our agenda, starting with our commitments for the first 100 days as we begin the task of securing a fair and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

“That includes taking forward an NHS recovery plan, taking the first steps to establish a National Care Service, getting additional financial support to businesses and investment to recruit more teachers and classroom assistants.

“The people of Scotland voted for a serious Government for serious times – and with this re-elected SNP administration, in a historic fourth consecutive term in office, that is exactly what they will get.”

There’s a fear this next stage of the easing of the coronavirus restrictions will have to bypass Moray, where infections continue to spike. 

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said  Moray could be forced to remain in Level 3 of the COVID restrictions, while the rest of the country moves to Level 2.

She told the BBC: “I really hope the situation stabilises. Only nine cases yesterday, let’s hope it continues to decline.

“Otherwise, there is a real risk that Moray will, as we feared, be one area which might have to delay its easing a little bit just at this crucial time when the rest of the country is moving into that next stage.”

The Scottish Government reported 168 new cases of coronavirus yesterday, but across Scotland there has only been one death registered since the beginning of May.

Last night BBC Scotland reported that a "traffic light" system for foreign travel is also set to be introduced.

As in England, from May 24, countries are to be classified as green, amber or red. Those in green mean no quarantine, those in amber means ten days, while red countries will involve hotel quarantine. 

England’s green list - which comes into force next week - includes Portugal, Israel, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Iceland, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands, St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island. 

Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch said the "vaccination programme has changed the equation a little" on overseas travel.

 

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