The travel ban has been lifted two weeks earlier than expected.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced today in an unexpected lunchtime briefing that the Covid-19 restrictions on travelling around Scotland will be lifted from this Friday (April 16). This means that those living in Scotland will be allowed to travel across the country, as long as they do not stay overnight anywhere.
These measures are said to have been eased earlier than previously planned in order to help people’s mental health. Nicola Sturgeon said this easing of restrictions would allow “long awaited and much-anticipated reunions” of families and friends.
The current restrictions in Scotland state that we cannot leave our own local authority areas except for an essential purpose and this rule was due to remain in place until the 26 April. However, according to the First Minister “the data allows us to make a change to this earlier than that”.
Nicola Sturgeon said: “Overall, we have now given a first dose to almost 60% of the whole adult population. And we have effectively met our target of offering a first dose by the middle of this month to everyone over 50 year olds; all unpaid carers; and all adults with particular underlying health conditions.
“Significantly, these groups account for 99% of all Covid related deaths, so that is quite a significant milestone. We have also made significant progress in reducing the number of new Covid cases that we are seeing now reported in Scotland.”
As well as lifting the travel ban in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon announced that the government will also be relaxing the rules for meeting people outdoors. From Friday onwards, a maximum of six adults from up to six households will be able to meet outdoors.
She also confirmed further reopening of the economy, including all shops, beers gardens, restaurants, cafes and gyms on April 26. In addition, the First Minister also said that from April 26 restrictions on travel to and from England and Wales will also be lifted.
The Scottish islands, which have been in level three for some time, will stay in the same level as mainland Scotland in order to allow people to travel between areas. Scotland’s First Minister said she expected the whole of Scotland to then move to level two on May 17 – allowing people to meet up indoors – and to level one and then zero in June.
However, a ban on international travel still remains in place and Nicola Sturgeon said rules regarding this will be decided on a four nations basis. She said a ban on international travel could be “the price we pay for greater normality here in Scotland” and necessary to “protect our progress here”.
The First Minister said: “I know that’s not easy and often when we talk about international travel we talk about holidays, but I’m very well aware that for many people international travel is about seeing families, so we will not keep these restriction in place for any longer than necessary, but it is important right now to protect our progress here so we don’t make the mistakes we perhaps made as we came out of lookdown last time and open up international travel too quickly and then compromise and jeopardise the progress that we have made. ”