SCOTLAND: Today, Scotland has left its final level – level zero of coronavirus restrictions.
With almost all of the remaining anti-Covid measures now removed, the legal requirement for physical distancing has stopped in most places and hospitality venues are now allowed to open at full capacity.
The new rules also mean the return of outdoor events of more than 5,000 people and indoor events of more than 2,000 – however permission from local authorities and the government is required to go ahead.
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But health secretary, Humza Yousaf urged caution, warning the public “the virus is still with us”.
He told BBC Scotland News: “People have been living with the harshest restrictions in their personal lives that any of us will ever remember, and they have been doing so on and off for 17-18 months. It has been really challenging for people, so I would enjoy this day but also please remember that the virus is still with us.”
“Enjoy yourself but continue to be sensible.”
First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced at her last update that Monday, August 9 would see almost all restrictions lifted.
On Friday it was also revealed that children under 12 would no longer have to wear face coverings.
‘Cannot rule out a return to lockdown’
As restrictions ease and schools return, Covid cases are expected to rise in the next few weeks.
Yousaf said that Scotland is currently on a “positive trajectory,” and the successful vaccination of the most vulnerable in society will hopefully mean that a winter lockdown is not necessary, but it cannot be ruled out.
“All it takes of course is a new variant to come from somewhere halfway across the world to make its way into Scotland,” he said.
Winter will be “challenging”, he added, with a more severe than usual flu season and waves of other respiratory viruses expected.
Opposition: Need more clarity on new rules
Moving beyond level zero, businesses and opposition politicians have pressed for more clarity on the new rules, after a week of back and forth following the First Minister’s announcement regarding the same.
Scottish Labour Covid Recovery spokesperson Jackie Baillie said on Sunday that the transition out of Level 0 had raised “more questions than answers”.
She said: “As restrictions lift, it is more important than ever that we have clear and consistent communication from the government – but so far we have been left with more questions than answers. Even on the most basic issues, people and businesses are in the dark.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip Stephen Kerr accused the government of “moving the goalposts” on restrictions.
“Humza Yousaf needs to be clear about what comes next for people and jobs, which will help compliance and acknowledge the sacrifices made by so many, getting to where we are now,” he said.
“The SNP’s shambolic messaging has left nightclubs and other businesses to make their own policies in the meantime.
“But that confusion can’t continue forever, and indefinite restrictions will hold back our recovery.”
Hundreds of pubs and restaurants along with nightclubs are set to open for the first time since March 2020.
Glasgow’s The Berkeley Suite told customers that “at the stroke of midnight” the doors would open again for the first time in almost 18 months.
“It’s hard to put into words how big this is, easy to write how excited we all are,” said a post on the club’s Facebook page.