Scotland to move to level 0 on July 19, but face coverings will remain mandatory

Scotland will move to Level 0 on July 19 as planned, Nicola Sturgeon has said, but mitigations such as mandatory face coverings will remain in place.

Speaking during a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister said lifting certain mitigations would "put all of us at greater risk", as some measures are relaxed.

This is in contrast to England, where UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have said face masks will not be mandatory and instead their wearing will be dependent on individual choice.

The First Minister said Scotland plans to move beyond Level 0 on August 9.

Face coverings in Scotland will remain mandatory. Credit: PA

What does level 0 mean for Scotland?

Level 0 would reduce the two-metre distancing rule to one metre in indoor public spaces.

Indoor gathering restrictions would be further lifted to allow up to eight people from up to three households to meet, with 15 people from 15 different households being allowed to meet outdoors. However for the next three weeks there must be 1m distancing between different groups, as opposed to the original plan to scrap social distancing entirely.

Travel is permitted anywhere in Scotland in Levels 0, 1 or 2 people should not enter a Level 3 or 4 area unless for an essential reason. Travel to the rest of the UK is also allowed.Up to 200 people will be able to attend weddings and funerals, and tradespeople can carry out any work in homes.

The 11pm closure time for pubs operating indoors will be extended to midnight.

Nightclubs and adult entertainment though will have to remain shut.

Mass stadium events will also be able to admit more people, with 2,000 seated patrons and 1,000 standing.

Indoor events will be limited to 400 people.

The Scottish Government is still advising people to work from home where possible. The planned "gradual return to the office" will be postponed until August 9.

Scotland has recorded four coronavirus deaths and 2,529 new cases in the past24 hours. It means the death toll under this daily measure - of people who first testedpositive for the virus within the previous 28 days - stands at 7,761.

318,566 people have now tested positive for the virus, and the daily test positivity rate is 11.5%, up from 11.1% the previous day. A total of 506 people were in hospital on Monday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up 37, with 41 patients in intensive care, up one.

The First Minister said that pressure on the NHS in Scotland was 'of concern' Credit: PA

Pressure on the NHS 'of concern'

The First Minister said that hospital admissions and intensive care cases had spiked in recent weeks, rising from 171 people in hospital and 18 people in intensive care three weeks ago to 506 and 42 respectively in the latest data.

"Hopefully, with new cases starting to fall, we will also see hospital admissions fall over the next few weeks," she said.

"But, at the moment, the pressure on the NHS is of concern. First and foremost, it means a significant number of people suffering illness. It also means more pressure on a workforce that has already given so much.

"And, of course, it holds back NHS recovery. Every hospital bed occupied by a Covid patient is one less available to tackle the backlog of non-Covid care."

A 'relatively modest' jump

The central belt of Scotland is currently in Level 2 of measures, with the rest of the mainland in Level 1 and most of the islands in Level 0.

Ahead of the announcement, Edinburgh University professor of public health Linda Bauld stressed a cautious approach was needed.

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland radio programme, she said: "What the Scottish Government will want to avoid is what is happening in Europe now.

"The Netherlands has seen an over 700% increase in cases. They've had to close nightclubs again, put restrictions on bars and restaurants, they've had to cancel mass events.

"I think the Scottish Government will want to continue to move forward, but Level 0 is not a huge jump, it's a relatively modest jump to the next stage."

Meanwhile, another public health specialist urged the First Minister to keep the current restrictions in place for longer.

Professor Andrew Watterson, of Stirling University, said too few people currently had the protection of both vaccine doses.

He told the Times: "For this to be irreversible, it's got to be cautious.

"We must rule nothing out and I've been very, very clear about that.

"We must protect the public and we will not hesitate to use the means that we have at our disposal."