Today, Friday 16 April, marks the day that some Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted in Scotland, with more people now able to meet up outdoors.
In the latest stage of lockdown easing, it was announced at an unscheduled Covid-19 briefing by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that the continued decline in virus cases meant that the easing of some restrictions could be brought forward.
From Friday, Scots will be able to travel across local authority boundaries for outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise - but they must follow the “stay local” order for other purposes, such as non-essential shopping, and travel to some islands will remain banned.
Groups of up to six adults from six households are now also allowed to meet outdoors, with children under 12 not counting towards the limit.
More restrictions are set to ease in May and over the summer if the virus continues to be suppressed.
‘Meet up with friends and family’
Announcing the plans on Tuesday (13 April), Sturgeon said: “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 [face coverings, avoid crowds, clean hands, two metres, self-isolate].”
‘Please, please be careful’
On Thursday (15 April), the First Minister told the PA news agency that it was “positive” that the easing of travel restrictions has been brought forward - but also cautioned not to let our guards drop.
She said: “What I would say to people is enjoy it, we’ve waited a long time, it’s been really tough, but please, please be careful.
“Don’t go to crowded places, if you’re headed to a beach or a park and it’s crowded please come away again because crowded places are not safe places to be.
“Please stick to all of the rules and advice, remember your face covering, remember, as I say, to avoid crowded places, hand hygiene, keep your two metre distancing.”
Sturgeon added: “As long as we all stick to the advice that’s still in place, this easing of restrictions tomorrow should be the first of many and I think, not least because of the vaccine programme, we can all afford to be just that bit more optimistic right now.”
Scotland moving to Level 3
The Scottish government website explains that, should the data permit, the whole of Scotland (including all island communities) will be in Level 3 from Monday 26 April.
This will mean:
- Non-essential travel between Scotland, England and Wales will be permitted, with tourist accommodation in Scotland able to reopen, subject to socialising guidelines
- Shops will be able to full reopen, with precautions like physical distancing, face masks and hand sanitiser in place
- Gyms and indoor sporting facilities, including swimming pools, will be able to reopen for individual exercise, with group activities allowed for under-18s, and all organised outdoor activity can resume, apart from adult contact sport
- Limits on attendance at life events, including weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and receptions will crease to 50, with alcohol permitted
- Pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to reopen outdoors for groups of up to six people from up to six households with alcohol in line with local licensing laws, and indoors for groups of up to six people from up to two households without alcohol until 8pm
- Takeaways will be able to resume normal service, with physical distancing and face masks
- Mobile close contact services, such as beauty salons, can resume
- Non-essential work in other people’s homes will resume