First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced in Scottish Parliament today that the remaining Covid-19 restrictions introduced in response to the Omicron variant will be lifted. Addressing MSPs at Holyrood this afternoon, the First Minister stated that “the situation has significantly strengthened in the past seven days” leading her to announce the further lifting of restrictions from Monday (January 24).
The First Minister said “we are now on the downward slope of this wave of cases”, however she said that “throwing all caution to the wind at this stage would be a mistake”, with the fact that “the full impact of the return to work and school after the festive break won’t be apparent yet in the data”. She added that the “NHS remains under acute pressure” with staff absences “still causing some disruption across the economy and critical services”.
This move comes a week after the First Minister announced the removal of attendance limits on live outdoor events. From Monday, Scotland will see the restrictions on the attendance limits for indoor public events, table service in hospitality premises serving alcohol and 1m distancing in indoor public places all lifted. In addition, this also means nightclubs will be able to reopen, non-professional indoor contact sports for adults can resume and the three household limit on indoor gatherings scrapped.
Nicola Sturegoen said: “It is important to stress this point: notwithstanding the improving situation, the level of Covid infection circulating in the community is still high. So to minimise the risk of us getting the virus it would be sensible for all of us to remain cautious in our social interactions at this stage.
“Even though from Monday we will no longer recommend a fixed upper limit on numbers of households, if we all continue to keep gatherings as small as our circumstances allow for now – until the end of this month – we will reduce our risks of infection. And, of course, we should continue to take lateral flow tests before meeting up with people from other households.”
In terms of returning to the office, the First Minister said “we will continue to ask people to work from home whenever possible at this stage, and for employers to facilitate this.” However, she added that the government “will engage with business now about a return to a more hybrid approach from the start of February.”
In addition, Nicola Sturgeon stated that face coverings must still be worn in public indoor settings and on public transport. “Hospitality premises should continue to collect contact details for customers – which is important for the effective operation of Test & Protect,” said the First Minister in her statement.
In addition, the Covid certification scheme will continue to apply for now to large indoor and outdoor events, and to late night venues – all settings where transmission risks can be higher. The Scottish Government will not at this stage extend the Covid certification scheme to other premises such as licensed hospitality venues, however the First Minister said this could change if cases were to rise sharply. There will be one minor change to the certification regulations – venues that have dancefloors but have put tables on it will have to use the scheme from Monday when late night venues can open.
Nicola Sturgeon finished her statement by stating: “The situation we face today is much less severe than it might have been without the sacrifices everyone has made over these past few weeks. Despite what you might be hearing, we have not yet moved from the epidemic to the endemic phase of Covid, although I hope that transition is underway. However, we are – I hope – once again entering a calmer phase of the epidemic.
“…The number of Covid cases across Scotland, although declining, also remains high. And because Omicron is so infectious, there is still a risk attached to social meetings and interactions. That is why – although we can be increasingly optimistic at this stage – we do all still need to play our part in helping to further slow the spread of the virus.”
For more information regarding Covid-19 restrictions and guidance in Scotland, head to the government website here.