"The news we’ve been waiting for" - Scotland to lift most remaining Covid rules next week

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Scotland to lift almost all remaining Covid rules next week

Related tags: Scotland, Hospitality, Coronavirus, lockdown, Coronavirus tier system

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed almost all remaining Covid rules in Scotland will be lifted next Monday (9 August), in an announcement described as 'the news hospitality has been waiting for'.

In a video statement to the Holyrood assembly this afternoon (3 August), the First Minister said the country will move 'beyond Level 0' of its five-tier system next week.

It means that for the first time since September last year, restaurants and pubs in Scotland will no longer be subject to a curfew on their operating hours. 

Night-time economy businesses, including nightclubs, will be able to reopen, having remained closed across the country since the start of the pandemic.

Social distancing regulations will also be scrapped, as will limits on the size of social gatherings.

“This is the best news the licensed hospitality industry has had for over a year – it’s the news we’ve been waiting for and I’m sure there will be a few champagne corks popping to celebrate, at long last, a return to near normal trading," says Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).

“We are particularly relieved that physical distancing restrictions can be dropped as the one-metre rule made trading very difficult for some premises, particularly smaller ones – premises can now get back to operating at maximum capacity."

Sturgeon described the changes as 'significant and hard-earned'.

She said: "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 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."

Some regulations will remain. Face coverings will still be required in all the indoor settings where they are currently used, including hospitality, and are likely to be legally mandated 'for some time to come' according to the First Minister.

There will also be an 'ongoing requirement' for venues to collect track and trace contact details from customers.

Changes to current self-isolation rules will be introduced. From Monday, any adult who is identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid will no longer be required automatically to self-isolate for 10 days providing they are double-vaccinated and can provide a negative PCR test.

The Government is also considering the possible 'limited use' of Covid-status certification  - more commonly referred to as 'vaccine passports' - for certain higher risk venues in the future.

Sturgeon confirmed that an app is currently being developed to make access to someone's Covid status or vaccination record easier for international travel, and this will be launched next month.

However, she added:  "I can assure Parliament that we do not underestimate the ethical, equity and human rights issues associated with Covid-status certification and will keep members updated and consulted on our thinking on this issue."

According to the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA), the removal of most restrictions means that more than 200 pubs will now be able to open their doors to customers again, having been forced to remain closed before as a result of the Covid rules.

However, with 285 Scottish pubs estimated to have closed down since the start of the pandemic, the trade body says there is a ‘range of pressing challenges’ still impacting the sector and that Government support will be crucial in the recovery phase. 

“This is the confirmation that so many in our sector have been desperate to hear," says Emma McClarkin, CEO of the SBPA.

"It is fantastic news for our pubs, which have suffered more than most sectors over the last 15 months. 

"Only from Monday can the recovery of our sector begin as we look to progress towards rebuilding, paying off accrued debts and welcoming customers fully once more. 

"It is estimated that Scotland has lost 285 pubs for good since the start of the pandemic and hundreds more remaining at risk, with a need to reduce the tax and regulatory burden that they face. Consumer confidence also remains fragile, meaning it is vital that we get the recovery phase right. 

"The ongoing requirement for face coverings and collection of customer contact information will have a small impact which must be recognised by Government.  

“Our businesses are faced with a range of pressing challenges, including staffing issues and supply chain pressures, which will require the Government to continue to work closely with us to support recovery. 

"With the correct support, the sector can be at the forefront of Scotland’s economic recovery, creating jobs and reviving our towns and cities.” 

Despite the positive announcement, Sturgeon continues to urged caution, and added that there was no guarantee restrictions will never return.

“We all hope - I know I certainly do - that the restrictions we lift next Monday will never again have to be re-imposed. But no-one can guarantee that," she said.

“This virus remains a threat - and as we enter winter, it may well pose challenges for us again.

“So as we have done throughout, the Government will seek to take whatever action is necessary to keep the country safe.

“But as has also been the case throughout, we all have a part to play in keeping the virus under control.”

Related topics: Business & Legislation

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