Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to be eased for majority in Scotland

Credit: PA

Covid restrictions will ease for the majority of Scots later this week, with cafes, restaurants, shops and hairdressers allowed to reopen from Friday and Saturday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on Tuesday that no area of Scotland will remain in Level 4 when changes come into force.

A total of 11 Scottish council areas - including Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Stirling - have been under the toughest tier of restrictions in the country since November 20.

They will now all move down to Level 3.

Nicola Sturgeon announced the changes in the Scottish Parliament Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/PA

The changes mean non-essential shops will be able to reopen from 6am on Friday, with the rest of the rule relaxations coming into affect from 6pm the same day.

Measures aimed at reducing infections remain in place in the lower tier, however, with hospitality businesses required to close their doors by 6pm.

It means those moving down a tier on Friday will still have to wait until Saturday to welcome back customers for food and non-alcoholic drinks.

The changes come as health authorities in Scotland reported a further 33 Covid deaths and 692 positive tests in the past 24 hours.

Katie McIntosh administers the first of two Covid-19 vaccine jabs to Fiona Churchill, at the Western General Hospital, in Edinburgh. Credit: PA

Ms Sturgeon welcomed the beginning of the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine across the UK on Tuesday, declaring "we may now be at the beginning of the end of this pandemic".

While she said the prevalence of the virus has “fallen significantly” in all 11 areas in west and central Scotland in Level 4, the First Minister warned against complacency.

“In reaching decisions today, we have had to consider the potential overall impact of moving to a lower level of restrictions at the same time as the Christmas period begins in earnest,” she said.

“That has led us to a proportionate but still cautious set of conclusions.”

Five other council areas in Scotland will have restrictions eased later this week, the First Minister confirmed.

Inverclyde, Falkirk and Angus will move from Level 3 to Level 2.

While Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders will move to Level 1.

All other council areas will remain in their current levels.

Edinburgh will remain in Level 3 for now Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

The First Minister told MSPs moving Edinburgh to Level 2 had been considered but the proximity to Christmas quashed that decision. It will be reassessed next week.

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire will also remain in Level 2, with cases having fallen in the past week.

Current travel restrictions across Scotland will remain in place, with the First Minster saying these “continue to be a vital part of keeping the country safe with a targeted and proportionate approach to restrictions”.

She said: “Nobody in a Level 3 area, or until Friday a Level 4 area, should travel outside their local authority area, except for very specific purposes."

The First Minister has said prevalence in the west of Scotland is ‘stubbornly high’ Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

“And no-one should travel into level 3 or 4 areas unless for essential purposes," she added.

“I am afraid that means, for example, that people from outside Glasgow must not travel there to do Christmas shopping when retail opens on Friday.”

The First Minister also said further business support in Scotland will be announced on Wednesday.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes will lay out support to Parliament as businesses across the country are forced to remain closed due to restrictions.

Consideration will also be given by Scottish ministers to changing the content of levels being enforced, with particular focus on the opening of hospitality businesses.