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Coronavirus update: Nicola Sturgeon ‘a wee bit emotional’ as she confirms return of hugs when most of Scotland moves to level two

© Andrew Milligan/PA WireNicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Hugging will return in Scotland from next week as most of the country moves into level two of coronavirus restrictions.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that, from Monday, six people from three households will be able to meet indoors, and eight people from eight households outdoors.

She said that physical distancing would not be required in private homes and gardens, but measures would still apply elsewhere.

At Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing, the first minister said: “I actually feel a wee bit emotional saying this, from Monday, as long as you stay within permitted limits, you can hug your loved ones again.”

But Sturgeon said it remains “vital to be cautious”, saying that dropping social distancing will be reviewed for all situations in the coming weeks.

Caution should also be used where a vulnerable person is involved, she said.

In the hospitality sector, pubs will be able to open indoors serving alcohol until 10:30pm, and the likes of cinemas, bingo halls and arcades will be allowed to reopen.

Adult outdoor contact sports and indoor group exercises can also resume.

‘Cautious’ changes will also be made to international travel, with Scotland moving to a traffic-light system as seen in England.

The new easing of measures will apply to most of Scotland. However, island communities (excluding Skye) will move to level one with further easings.

Moray, meanwhile, looks set to remain in level three following a surge in cases and an increase in hospital admissions.

The “huge success” of the vaccination programme along with compliance with restrictions has meant Scotland’s coronavirus figures have continued to fall, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

In the last three weeks, the first minister said, case numbers have dropped from an average of 226 per day to 177 per day.

However, a very slight increase across the country has been logged, mainly due to the outbreak in Moray.

“The situation in Moray, together with the emergence of new variants globally, should be a sharp reminder to all of us that the virus remains a real threat,” Sturgeon said.

Case numbers in Moray are more than four times higher than in the rest of the country.

“It’s against that backdrop that, unless the situation was to materially improve over the next few days, it would simply not be safe or sensible to ease restrictions there from Monday,” she said.

As well as Moray remaining in Level 3, the first minister said the region would see travel restrictions reimposed to ensure cases do not rise in other areas of the country.

“This will mean that travel in and out of Moray will be limited to permitted purposes only,” she added.

What level 2 means

  • SIX people from THREE households can meet indoors in a home– and can stay overnight. This limit is up from four people from two households as previously set out for this level.
  • EIGHT people from EIGHT households can meet outdoors.
  • Inside homes and gardens, physical distancing will not be required between households, allowing the return of hugs. People are, however, urged to be cautious and use their judgement on this.
  • SIX people from THREE households can meet in an indoor public place like a café, pub or restaurant with alcohol served until 10:30pm. Distancing measures will still apply but are being reviewed over the next three weeks.
  • Up to 100 people can attend indoor events and up to 250 for outdoors events with unrestricted standing. 500 people can attend a seated event.