Scotland's toughened Covid restrictions to be eased from Monday

All of Scotland’s coronavirus restrictions introduced on Boxing Day will be brought to an end as the country "turns the corner on the Omicron wave".

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that from January 24, nightclubs can open again, non-professional indoor sports can resume and indoor public events can eschew limits brought in at the end of last year.

Scotland had introduced restrictions on December 26 in a bid to tackle a surge in Covid cases. Traditional Hogmanay celebrations were cancelled, while live sports became “effectively spectator-free”.

Additionally, outdoor public events were capped at 500 and numbers at indoor public events were limited to 100 standing or 200 seated.

On Tuesday, however, Ms Sturgeon said that although restrictions would be lifted, "throwing all caution to the wind" would be dangerous and the country will return to the baseline measures in place before Omicron.

She added: "It is important to stress this point: notwithstanding the improving situation, the level of Covid infection circulating in the community is still high. So to minimise the risk of us getting the virus it would be sensible for all of us to remain cautious in our social interactions at this stage.” “We will continue to ask people to work from home whenever possible at this stage – and for employers to facilitate this. “However, we will engage with business now about a return to a more hybrid approach from the start of February.”

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The Scottish Conservatives, the biggest opposition party at Holyrood, welcomed the "sea change" but repeated their criticism of the vaccine passport scheme, which is still in place.

The shadow cabinet secretary for health, Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, said: “The First Minister has now twice backed down on extending the SNP’s discredited vaccine passport scheme. But for many Scottish businesses, it remains a burden and a potential risk, despite there being no evidence that it works.

“Nicola Sturgeon should accept that this scheme is a dud and scrap it altogether."

He added: “The First Minister's statement did begin a sea change in the government’s policy, starting to shift from a rules-based approach more towards trusting the Scottish public, as we were pushing for.

 “Yesterday we called for an end to most Covid restrictions because the data shows that we are past the peak of Omicron. Most of what we’ve called for has been met - but the government insists on keeping some Covid restrictions in place beyond the necessary point to keep the public safe."

Sajid Javid Credit: PA Images

In England, health secretary Sajid Javid said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the government can “substantially reduce” the nation's Covid restrictions next week.

Sajid Javid told MPs it was likely “we have already reached the peak of the case numbers of hospitalisations” as ministers prepare to review Plan B measures next Wednesday.

He said in the Commons on Tuesday: “I have always said that these restrictions should not stay in place a day longer than absolutely necessary.

“Due to these pharmaceutical defences and the likelihood that we have already reached the peak of the case numbers of hospitalisations, I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to substantially reduce restrictions next week.”