Nicola Sturgeon has outlined future steps in lockdown easing, with hopes that Scotland will move out of major legal restrictions from August 9.
Updating MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday, the first minister confirmed that nowhere in Scotland would be moving down a level on Monday as had previously been planned.
It comes as the country recorded 2,167 new cases in the past 24 hours – the highest since January 8.
But it is hoped that, should vaccination keep reducing the harm the virus causes, there will be a move to Level 0 on July 19 and further lifting of restrictions from August 9.
In a new paper published today, the Scottish Government will announce that it will now look to “suppress the virus to a level consistent with alleviating its harms while we recover and rebuild for a better future”.
Previously, Government policy called for the suppression of the virus “to the lowest possible level”.
The first minister said: “This change reflects the fact that vaccination is reducing – we hope significantly – the harm that the virus causes.
“Vaccination means it is now possible – indeed, necessary – to shift our strategic aim, and reduce the wider health, social and economic harms that strict ‘lockdown’ measures cause.”
Moving to Level 0
Scotland will move to Level 0 on July 19 as part of Scottish Government plans.
In addition to the planned easings in that tier of restrictions, this could see physical distancing requirements reduced to one metre, and the lifting of limits on how many people can meet in informal social gatherings.
Sturgeon said: “Assuming we are meeting the revised strategic aim, we hope that all parts of Scotland, not currently in that level, can move to Level 0 on 19 July.
“That means, for example, that the limits for household gatherings indoors will increase from that date, and up to 200 people will be able to attend weddings and funerals.
“We also hope – assuming the data supports this – that the general indoor physical distancing requirement can be reduced from 2 metres to 1 metre.
“And we hope, from that date, to lift the outdoor requirement to physically distance.
“In addition – in recognition of the reduced risk of outdoor transmission and therefore the desire to encourage people to stay outdoors as much as possible – we hope that limits on informal outdoor social gatherings, in private gardens for example, will also be removed at this stage.”
Beyond Level 0
The Scottish Government hopes to move out of Covid-19 restrictions from August 9.
The first minister said: “Our assessment – on balance and assuming we meet the necessary conditions on vaccination and harm reduction – is that it would be possible and proportionate to lift the major remaining legal restrictions on 9 August.
“We will consider and make a final assessment nearer the time of whether – as we hope – this could include the lifting of the legal requirement to physically distance indoors as well as outdoors.”
She added: “The move beyond Level 0 will be a major milestone and it will signal a return to almost complete normality in our day to day lives.
“Of course, while this is a longed-for moment, it is important to recognise that we still have a difficult path to navigate over the next few weeks to meet these milestones and, even assuming we do, the pandemic will not be completely over at this stage.
“As our Strategic Framework Update paper sets out, basic mitigations will still be required, as we move through summer and into the autumn, when we face the risk of a further resurgence in cases.”
Advice on things like wearing masks is likely to continue beyond this date, however, and the Scottish Government will not immediately recommend a return to office working when all restrictions are lifted.
The first minister told MSPs Government would work with business as Scotland enters Level 0 to devise a phased plan for the return of staff to offices.
She said: “While recognising that a return to the workplace will be right for many, we will encourage continued support for home working where it is possible and appropriate.
“This won’t just assist with control of the virus, it will also help promote well-being more generally.
“However, I think many would agree that, as a general principle, home-working should be more possible post Covid than it was before.”
Change to guidance for weddings and funerals
Guidance for weddings and funerals will be changed in Scotland from Monday.
At weddings, live entertainment will be allowed, although dancing will not as attendees will have to be seated.
Those accompanying the couple down the aisle will also no longer need to wear face coverings, while those working at weddings will no longer count towards the total number of people who can attend.
For funerals, people from more than one household will also now be allowed to carry a coffin or take a cord when lowering it.
All priority groups in Scotland will have been fully vaccinated by this Sunday.
Sturgeon, who received her own second dose on Monday, told MSPs that everyone in the top nine priority groups set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) would mostly be covered with two jabs.
However, she did say that there may be some people in these groups who cannot make their appointments.
The nine groups, which include everyone over the age of 50, with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers, represent 99% of all Covid-19 deaths during the pandemic.
“The fact that virtually all of them will be fully vaccinated by the end of this week is hugely significant,” the first minister said.
It’s expected second vaccine doses for all adults will have been completed by September 12.
There could, however, be booster jags this autumn and potentially vaccinations for 12 to 17-year-olds.
Scotland has recorded four new coronavirus deaths and 2,167 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to latest figures.
It means the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 7,696.
The daily test positivity rate has jumped to 9.1%, up from 7.2% the previous day, according to figures published by the Scottish Government on Tuesday.
Public Health Scotland said there were approximately 15 additional cases in NHS Grampian due to delayed reporting.
There were 171 people in hospital on Monday with recently confirmed Covid-19, and 18 people in intensive care.
So far 3,664,571 people have received the first dose of a Covid vaccination and 2,602,753 have received their second dose.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe