Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announces the country will move from phase 2 to phase 3

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that Scotland will move to phase three of the easing of lockdown. 

Speaking in Holyrood on Thursday, the First Minister told MSPs that all six criteria set out by the World Health Organisation had been met with the advent of air bridges between different nations announced on Wednesday. 

Sturgeon said no new coronavirus deaths have been reported in Scotland in the last 24 hours and a total of 2,490 patients have died after testing positive for coronavirus, no change on yesterday’s figure. 

The First Minister said 18,315 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by six from 18,309 the day before. 

Nicola Sturgeon Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

There are 646 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, down 121 on Wednesday. 

Of these patients, nine were in intensive care, a fall of two. 

In confirming the move to phase three, the First Minister said that exceptions would be made to the two-metre social distancing rule in some sectors. 

Public transport and retail will see the rule relaxed from Friday, the First Minister said. 

However, mitigations will have to be in place in these sectors, she added, as well as ensuring that discussions have taken place with trade unions before the rule is eased. 

Ms Sturgeon also reminded the Scottish public that face coverings become mandatory from Friday, asking everyone to comply with the new rule. 

Police in Scotland will also be able to enforce compliance with facial covering.  

From Friday, up to 15 people from five different households will be allowed to meet outdoors, the First Minister said, as long as social distancing is adhered to. 

A maximum of eight people from three different households will also now be able to meet indoors. 

However, the First Minister described the change as “one of the highest risk changes we have made so far”. 

She added: “We know that the risk of transmitting the virus indoors is significantly higher than it is outdoors. 

Couples who do not live together will now be able to meet without physically distancing, regardless of their living arrangements. 

Nicola Sturgeon warned against a reckless approach to leaving lockdown. Credit: PA

Indoor hospitality businesses have also been given the go-ahead to open on July 15, the First Minister announced. 

However, Nicola Sturgeon added: “Just as with indoor household meetings, opening up indoor hospitality poses significantly increased risks of transmission. 

“So, it is essential that the guidance on health and safety is followed rigorously, by businesses, staff and customers. 

“That includes guidance on physical distancing and taking customer contact details.” 

Hospitality venues will also be allowed to ease the one-metre rule, the First Minister said, with mitigations in place. 

Shops within shopping centres will also be able to reopen, meaning the majority of retail premises will be operational in phase three. 

Credit: ITV West Country

Health services including optometry and dentistry practices will also be able to open again, with dental procedures which do not create a “fine mist” such as the operation of a drill able to go ahead. 

Tourism businesses such as hotels will also be able to open as expected on July 15. 

Museums, galleries, libraries and cinemas, provided that tickets are bought in advance, will also be able to accommodate people again. 

Hairdressers and barbers will be able to open on the expected date, with guidance for the sector due to be published this week, the First Minister said.