Scotland's tightened Omicron restrictions relaxed

  • Video reports by Hannah Miller

The final restrictions put in place in response to the Omicron variant sweeping across Scotland will be eased from today.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last week nightclubs would be able to reopen, while the caps on indoor events, table service requirements for venues selling alcohol and social distancing will also be removed.

The measures were put in place in December - along with a maximum capacity in outdoor events of 500, which was eased last Monday as the new variant caused a spike in cases - eventually peaking at more than 20,000 in the first days of 2022.

However, infections started to dip faster than expected, never reaching the worst case scenario the Scottish Government envisaged as possible - with projections suggesting 50,000 people could be infected daily with the new variant at the peak of the wave.

But the requirements for face coverings and self-isolation will remain for the foreseeable future.

Announcing the end of the restrictions last Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said: "Although significant pressures and uncertainties do remain, the data nevertheless gives us confidence that we have turned the corner on the Omicron wave."

She told MSPs: "A combination of booster vaccinations, the willingness of the public to adapt their behaviour to help stem transmission, and the temporary protective measures introduced in December, has helped blunt the impact of the Omicron wave."

Credit: PA

The First Minister also said there would be no extension to the vaccine passport scheme despite consideration by her cabinet.

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."

In her statement to Holyrood, 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.

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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.”