First Minister Nicola Sturgeon updated Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and the Scottish public today (Tuesday 11 January) on whether Covid restrictions introduced to curb the spread of Omicron would be lifted as daily cases decline.
According to the latest available data published by Public Health Scotland on Tuesday, there are 10,392 new positive coronavirus cases in Scotland after the country followed England in scrapping confirmatory PCR testing for close contacts of people confirmed to have Covid.
Ms Sturgeon said in her speech today that there are “some signs that we may be starting to turn a corner” as hospitalisation data suggests that the increased rate of people being admitted to hospital as a result of Covid has started to slow down.
However, the First Minister underlined “significant uncertainties” about the state of Omicron in Scotland as reasoning for a cautious and phased easing to the restrictions on hospitality, events and indoor gatherings introduced in December.
Here’s what Nicola Sturgeon said in today’s Covid update and what the rules are after changes to Scotland’s Covid restrictions.
What are the new Covid rules in Scotland?
Restrictions introduced in Scotland on large outdoor events, which saw indoor standing and seating event capacity limited to 100 people and 200 people respectively, will be removed next week after being introduced on Boxing Day last year.
This means that the 500 person limit on capacity at large outdoor events in Scotland such as football matches will no longer be in force.
However, restrictions on indoor live events will remain in place for at least another week from Monday.
"Spectators will be permitted again at major outdoor sporting events, including football fixtures scheduled for early next week, and the forthcoming Six Nations rugby matches," the First Minister said in Tuesday’s Covid update.
But she added that the removal of restrictions on large outdoor events will bring new updated rules and guidance for these events.
New guidance will require organisers of large events of 1000 people or more to check the Covid vaccine certification status of at least 50% of attendees and will see the requirement for ‘fully vaccinated’ updated to refer to three doses of a Covid vaccine, rather than the prior two, if the second dose was more than four months ago.
Restrictions on large events previously required organisers to check the vaccination certification status of 20% of attendees on entry, with new rules seeing a marked increase.
The Scottish Government issued new guidance for the hospitality and retail sectors on managing queues and any potential crowding of customers at bars and service points in December, before further rules were introduced on serving alcohol indoors on 27 December.
While the requirement of table service for those consuming alcohol in indoor hospitality venues such as bars, restaurants and cafes, along with one metre physical distancing, was set to end next week, this will remain in place until at least Monday 24 January.
The First Minister said in today’s update that the Cabinet will first need to assess new data next week before confirming a lift to limits on capacity for indoor live events, as well as for removing table service requirements in bar and restaurants.
So, indoor hospitality and leisure venues still have to ensure one metre physical distancing is maintained between different groups of people attending these venues together for at least another week.
There are no new restrictions or rules applying to households and social mixing in Scotland, but current guidance advising indoor social mixing with no more than three different households remains in place as Omicron persists.
“We are not advising people to cut all social interaction,” Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday.
"That simply isn’t practical, and has a serious impact on mental health and wellbeing.
“But trying to limit social interactions remains a sensible step at this stage.
"It helps stem to some extent increases in transmission - and so has a collective benefit.
She added: "At a time when 1 in 20 of us could have the virus, the risk of becoming infected when we mix with others is a significant one.
"So cutting back on contacts and prioritising those that are most important to us helps reduce that risk.
"And if we make sure there are no more than three households in any indoor gathering we do have and take lateral flow tests before we go, we further reduce the risks.”
When will current Covid restrictions in Scotland end?
The current restrictions on large outdoor public events such as football matches, large outdoor concerts and celebrations will end on Monday 17 January.
But the requirement to be ‘fully vaccinated’ for the purposes of Covid certification will also be updated to include having a booster or third dose of a vaccine if the second dose was more than four months ago on Monday.
Ms Sturgeon said that Scotland’s NHS Scotland Covid status app for domestic vaccine certificate use will be updated from Thursday so that its QR code includes evidence of booster vaccination, with members of the public also able to order updated paper and PDF copies of their vaccination status – which will now be valid for three months.
Meanwhile, restrictions introduced for hospitality, indoor events and leisure venues, such as requiring table service for those consuming alcohol on the premises, are set to be removed on Monday 24 January – but will not be confirmed until Nicola Sturgeon’s next Covid Scotland update.