Scotland to end most Covid restrictions, but face coverings to remain 'for some time to come'

Most of the remaining Covid restrictions are to be scrapped in Scotland from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon has said, but the legal requirement to wear face coverings in some settings will remain.

The First Minister told MSPS in a virtual sitting of the Scottish Parliament that the country could move beyond Level 0 - the lowest level of a five tier system of restrictions in Scotland - due to the "steady decline in cases" and "the success of vaccination".

She said most of the remaining legally imposed restrictions - including on physical distancing and limits to the size of social gatherings - would be lifted, allowing large-scale events to take place.

No venues will be legally required to close, she added, allowing nightclubs to reopen.

But she said the legal requirement to wear face mask will remain for "some time to come".

Contact tracing of positive cases will remain, pubs and restraints must continue to collect customer details and home working will continue to be advised.

She said her government was considering "very carefully the possible, albeit limited, use of Covid status certification for access to certain higher risk venues in future".

From Monday, close contacts of those who test positive for Covid will no longer be required to automatically self-isolate for 10 days.

Ms Sturgeon said: "However, while this move will restore a substantial degree of normality, it is important to be clear that it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck.

"Declaring freedom from, or victory over, this virus is premature."

Face coverings to remain mandatory

Despite Scotland moving beyond Level 0 on August 9, the pandemic is not over, Nicola Sturgeon has said. "This change is significant and hard-earned. The sacrifices everyone has made over the past year-and-a-half can never be overstated.

"However, while this move will restore a substantial degree of normality, it is important to be clear that it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck.

Masks are likely to be legally mandated "for some time to come", said Ms Sturgeon. "We will keep this under review, but my expectation is that face coverings are likely to be mandated in law for some time."

Face coverings will remain mandatory in Scotland 'for some time to come' Credit: PA

Ms Sturgeon also said Test and Protect will continue, while homeworking will also still be advised by the Scottish Government: "I know most businesses are not planning a wholesale return to the office, while recognising that a return for some staff will be beneficial to them and their employers. It is vital that this gradual approach continues.

"We will also encourage employers to consider for the longer term, as the Scottish Government is doing, a hybrid model of home and office working - which may, of course, have benefits beyond the need to control a virus."

'No guarantee' restrictions won't be reimposed

The First Minister told MSPs: "We all hope - I know I certainly do - that the restrictions we lift next Monday will never again have to be re-imposed. But no-one can guarantee that.

"This virus remains a threat - and as we enter winter, it may well pose challenges for us again.

"So as we have done throughout, the Government will seek to take whatever action is necessary to keep the country safe.

"But as has also been the case throughout, we all have a part to play in keeping the virus under control."

Infection rates in Scotland

Scotland has recorded nine coronavirus deaths and 1,016 new cases in the past 24 hours, the latest Scottish Government figures show.

It brings the death toll under the daily measure - of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days - to 7,952.

The daily test positivity rate is 8.1%, up from 6.5% the previous day.

A total of 406 people were in hospital yesterday with recently confirmed Covid-19, with 61 patients in intensive care.

So far, 4,014,212 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 3,231,331 have received their second dose.