Accelerated easing of restrictions

Photo Credit: Maria Lindsey

Travel within Scotland for outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise will be allowed from Friday 16 April.

People must continue to Stay Local for other purposes such as non-essential shopping, and public transport capacity will continue to be limited.  

Outdoor meetings in groups of up to six adults from up to six households will also be allowed from Friday, with under-12s not counting towards this limit. Socialising in homes is still not permitted.

This easing of restrictions has been brought forward as data shows continued progress on vaccination against Coronavirus (COVID-19) and suppression of the virus. Caution was urged by the First Minister to protect against resurgence of the virus as the latest easing was confirmed – people should take care to plan ahead with journeys and follow the FACTS advice when out and about.

Should data permit, the whole of Scotland, including all island communities, will then be in Level 3 from Monday 26 April. This will mean:

  • non-essential travel between Scotland, England and Wales will be permitted, and tourist accommodation in Scotland can reopen subject to socialising rules
  • shops will be able to fully reopen with precautions including physical distancing requirements, face masks and hand sanitiser in place
  • gyms and indoor sports facilities, including swimming pools, will reopen for individual exercise, with group activities permitted for under-18s, and all organised outdoor activity can resume except adult contact sport
  • limits on attendance at life events, including weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and receptions for those will increase to 50, with alcohol permitted
  • pubs, cafes and restaurants will reopen outdoors for groups of up to six people from up to six households with alcohol in line with local licencing laws, and indoors for groups of up to six people from up to two households without alcohol until 20:00
  • takeaways will be able to resume normal service, with physical distancing and face masks in premises
  • mobile close contact services such as hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons can resume
  • non-essential work in other people’s homes will resume

Further reviews will take place to consider the rest of the Common Travel Area (CTA), including for Northern Ireland ahead of 26 April which will take into account the outcome of the review of restrictions there later this week. Temporary travel restrictions may still be necessary beyond 26 April to and from targeted places with high rates of COVID-19, either in Scotland or in other parts of the CTA, to protect against importation of the virus.

Updated Strategic Framework Protection Level tables have been published showing the route map for future easings. These include new limits on attendance at public events tailored to individual settings based on available space for physical distancing from Level 2 and below. Self-assessment guidance will be published to enable businesses to calculate the specific limits for their premises.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“We have made significant progress in reducing the number of new COVID cases in Scotland, partly due to the success of the vaccination programme but also because so many people have stuck so well to the rules. Daily cases are at the lowest level since September, and have declined more than 85% since early January.

“After consulting with island communities we have decided to align islands with the rest of Scotland for a period so that travel, and therefore parts of the economy that so many islanders rely on, can operate more normally from 26 April. Let me reassure those who would have preferred to see the islands move to Level 2 at the end of April that we do expect at least a move to Level 2 to happen on 17 May.

“More generally, we currently expect the whole country to move to at least Level 2 on 17 May, to Level 1 in early June, and to Level 0 in late June.

“Reaching Level 0 is not the extent of our ambitions, and later on in the summer as the number of people who have been vaccinated increases further we hope that a level of normality well beyond Level 0 will become possible.

“We have always said we will keep plans under review and accelerate the lifting of restrictions if possible. The improved data does not allow us to throw caution to the wind – not if we are sensible – but it does give us a bit of limited headroom. 

“So from the end of this week, you will be able to meet up with family and friends who live in different parts of the country. Many of those reunions will be long-awaited, and much anticipated. Please do remember that meetings at this stage must still be outdoors – you cannot socialise in people’s homes – and remember due to physical distancing, public transport capacity remains relatively limited.

“COVID is in retreat in Scotland but it hasn’t gone away – it will come back if we allow it. So we must still exercise care and caution, continue to stick to the rules that are in place, work from home if you can and when you do leave the house, remember FACTS.”

Background

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister’s statement – 13 April 2021 – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Updated Strategic Framework Protection Level tables can be downloaded at Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

The Scottish Government’s priority is to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible. There are six main tools for achieving this:

  • the quickest practical roll-out of the vaccination programme
  • the most effective use of Test and Protect
  • applying proportionate protective measures (rules and guidance) to suppress transmission of the virus
  • effective measures to manage the risk of importation of the virus
  • supporting individuals, businesses and organisations to adhere to protective measures
  • providing care and support to mitigate the harms of the crisis

The six conditions for safe easing set out by the World Health Organisation are:

  • COVID-19 transmission is under control
  • sufficient health systems and public health capabilities are in place
  • outbreak risks are minimised in vulnerable settings
  • workplace preventative measures are established
  • risk of imported cases are managed

communities are fully engaged

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