Tories call for end to Covid rules and phasing out of self isolation in Scotland
The Scottish Conservatives have called for nearly all of Scotland's Covid restrictions to be scrapped, including the self-isolation period.
Party leader Douglas Ross said positive data on the state of the virus meant the rules should be replaced with “public health advice that people can use to keep themselves safe.”
But the Scottish Greens described the Tory demand as "reckless."
The call came as Scottish ministers lifted the ban on crowds at large scale outdoor public events. There are still, however, many restrictions in place.
Indoor hospitality and leisure venues need to ensure table service and one-metre distance between different groups of people, while nightclubs have been closed altogether.
Other businesses had to take measures to mitigate the spread of the disease, including efforts to maintain social distancing.
Scots were also asked to limit their contacts and not gather indoors in groups of more than three households.
The Tories want to see an end to all these restrictions, as well as the scrapping of the vaccine passport scheme and the eventual phasing out of self-isolation rules.
They’ve also called for the end of home working and a return to the office, and the First Minister to immediately end the ban on indoor sports when she addresses parliament on Tuesday.
However, they’ve stopped short of calling for face masks to be scrapped. The party said that “until the data becomes even more encouraging” they should still be required in public places, for instance in hospitality premises, supermarkets and public transport.
Though the Tories say they should no longer be necessary for schools.
According to Scottish Government modelling, Scotland's infections peaked on Saturday.
The latest figures show that 6,221 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported today, though that, for the first time, includes positive cases diagnosed by a lateral flow test.
There were 43 people in intensive care, and 1,557 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid.
Ross said: “The Scottish Government’s own data shows that we are past the peak of Omicron. The latest evidence means we can now be far more optimistic.
“Protecting mental health, physical health and Scottish jobs is every bit as important as slowing the spread of Covid. Our economy and the long-term health of the public must not be held back any longer than necessary.
“We believe the balance must now tip in favour of trusting the Scottish public to do the right thing and keep themselves and their families safe, as they have done throughout this pandemic.
“People across Scotland have learned to live with Covid. The success of Scotland and the UK’s vaccine scheme means the public can now tackle Covid through their own actions, without the need for so many government restrictions.
“We will be pushing the SNP Government to examine their own data and progressively remove restrictions. The current rules-based approach should be phased out in favour of less restrictive public health advice.”
Responding to the Tory leader, Scottish Greens health and social care spokesperson Gillian Mackay said: “It seems that Douglas Ross has learned absolutely nothing during the past two years. Ripping up restrictions at a time when our NHS is still under pressure would be reckless.
“I am pleased that we are in a position where restrictions can begin to be relaxed, but it is essential that the situation continues to be monitored daily. We have seen before how the circumstances can change quickly, so caution must be maintained."
The First Minister wouldn't be drawn on what might be in tomorrow's statement, but told the PA she was "cautiously optimistic."
She said: “I hope we’ll be able to follow the trajectory I set out last week when I make my statement tomorrow, but the cabinet needs to look at all of the up-to-date data tomorrow and come to decisions.
“Looking at that data right now, we’ve got reasons to continue to be cautiously optimistic that we’re turning the corner on this Omicron wave.
“That’s because people have responded magnificently, they’ve behaved in a way that’s helped stem to some extent the transmission of Omicron and we took sensible, balanced, proportionate steps.
“So we’re in a better position than I feared we would be before Christmas. But there’s still a need for caution because the health service, for example, continues to be under very, very acute pressure.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour’s Health and Covid Recovery spokesperson Jackie Baillie said tomorrow’s statement should be used by the government “to provide clarity on the next steps of the pandemic” and “address the long running problems in the NHS and social care that have reached crisis point.”
“As Scotland starts to learn to live with Covid in the long term, we need both our NHS and our economy to be up to full strength. It is time for the SNP to end its ‘sticking plaster’ policy culture and listen to the concerns of both businesses, the NHS and social care. We must give them what they need so that they can help Scotland recover,” she said.