Scotland to move beyond level 0

First Minister, Nichola Sturgeon

THE legal requirement for physical distancing and limits on gatherings is set to be removed on 9 August when all venues across Scotland are able to re-open, but some protective measures will remain in place.

This includes the use of face coverings indoors and the collection of contact details as part of Test and Protect. Capacity limits of 2000 people indoors and 5000 people outdoors will also remain in place although some exceptions may be possible on a case-by-case basis. These will be reviewed on a three-weekly basis to ensure they remain proportionate.

Adults identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 will also no longer be automatically required to self-isolate for 10 days from 9 August. Anyone who is double-vaccinated with at least two weeks passed since their second dose and who has no symptoms will be able to end self-isolation if they return a negative PCR test. The same conditions will also apply to anyone aged between five and 17 years old, even if they have not been vaccinated. The requirement to take a PCR test will not apply to children under the age of five.

Test and Protect will also implement revised guidance for under 18s. This means that the blanket isolation of whole classes in schools will no longer happen and a targeted approach, that only identifies children and young people who are higher risk close contacts, will be adopted. Fewer young people will have to self-isolate, and most will be asked to self-isolate for a much shorter period of time. To allow time to monitor the impacts of these changes, the majority of the mitigations that were in place in schools in the previous term will be retained for up to six weeks. This will help support a safe and sustainable return to education after the summer break.

While the gateway condition on vaccination has been met, with 92% of those over the age of 40 protected by two doses of the vaccine, there are still many more people who have not had the vaccine, cannot have it, or are not yet eligible for it. Invitations for vaccines are now going out to 12 to 17-year-olds with specific health conditions that make them more vulnerable to Covid. This follows the recent advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. We expect to have offered the first doses to this group by the end of August.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“The move beyond level 0 will entail the lifting of most of the remaining legally imposed restrictions – most notably, on physical distancing and limits to the size of social gatherings. It also means that from 9 August, no venues will be legally required to close.

“This change is significant and it is hard-earned. The sacrifices everyone has made over the past year and a half can never be overstated. However, while this move will restore a substantial degree of normality, it is important to be clear that it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck.

“Declaring freedom from, or victory over, this virus is in my view premature. The harm the virus can do, including through the impact of long Covid, should not be underestimated. And its ability to mutate may yet pose us real challenges.”

The STA welcomed the First Minister’s announcement; “This is continued progress for our industry towards a more normal trading environment relative to what our sector has experienced over the course of the pandemic, particularly the removal of the 1 metre physical distancing requirement which I know will be a huge leap forward for so many businesses which have continued to be severely impacted by restrictions in terms of capacity,” commented Marc Crothall, CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

“Further clarity around the definition of ‘high-risk venues’ which may require Covid certification will need to be given over the coming days;” he continued. “It’s also hugely important that the legal requirement for wearing masks is placed on the consumer and not just the venue to enable businesses to maintain compliance and trade effectively without jeopardising licenses.  I know that all sectors will be doing their utmost to build public confidence around safety as we progress beyond level 0.

“This is very much the news that our industry has been hopeful to receive for some time and comes with a few weeks of the summer season left to perhaps recoup some lost earnings and get businesses into better shape for the next few months as we move into the shoulder season.

“It is however important to highlight that with so many trading weeks lost and the requirement for debt to be repaid, the need for support for tourism and hospitality businesses cannot be overlooked; it will indeed be some time before businesses can become financially sustainable although today’s news marks that huge step forwards after the most difficult period for Scotland’s tourism industry.”

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