Nicola Sturgeon update: all the Scotland Covid rules easing on 17 May - from hugging to indoor visits

The First Minister made her lockdown roadmap announcement today and confirmed that mainland Scotland will move to Level 2 on Monday with the exception of Moray

The cautious lockdown easing is well and truly underway in Scotland after a long bout of Covid restrictions which were imposed in January.

The mainland entered Level 3 rules on 26 April, which permitted indoor and outdoor cafes and restaurants to reopen, as well as non-essential shops, gyms and the resumption of the domestic tourism industry.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has now confirmed that the mainland - with the exception of Moray - will move to Level 2 from 17 May which will relax rules around socialising indoors, hospitality and entertainment venues like cinemas.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to update the public on the further easing of Covid restrictions on Tuesday (Getty Images)First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to update the public on the further easing of Covid restrictions on Tuesday (Getty Images)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to update the public on the further easing of Covid restrictions on Tuesday (Getty Images)

It is likely that Moray will remain in Level 3 due to a surge in Covid cases in the area, while some island communities will move to Level 1.

So, what did Ms Sturgeon say - and what can we do from 17 May?

Here is everything you need to know.

What lockdown changes have already taken place?

Scotland’s “stay at home” order was replaced by “stay local” guidance on Friday 2 April, then some initial sectors of the economy opened back up three days later.

That included the reopening of hairdressers and barbers by appointment only, with stylists able to welcome clients through their doors for the first time in months.

Garden centres also reopened, as well as non-essential shops like homeware stores, car showrooms and forecourts, and click-and-collect services by staggered appointments.

Travel restrictions within Scotland were then eased earlier than planned on 16 April, while six people from six households were permitted to meet up to socialise outside from that date.

Mainland Scotland then moved into Level 3 from 26 April, as the country returned to a “modified” local levels system similar to the one which was in place before the lockdown.

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That change saw the reopening of hospitality venues, like cafes, pubs and restaurants, until 8pm indoors with no alcohol and 10pm outdoors with alcohol.

Indoor gyms and swimming pools were able to reopen as well as tourist accommodation, museums, galliers and libraries.

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What did Nicola Sturgeon announce?

Ms Sturgeon confirmed that the planned changes from Monday 17 May will be able to go ahead as mainland Scotland moves into Level 2.

This is due to a high compliance with the rules from the public and the country’s vaccine rollout success, she said, which has led to a “continued suppression of the virus”.

Meanwhile, as Moray is witnessing a high and increasing number of cases, a final decision will be made at the end of this week to see if the area will stay in Level 3 for a further period.

The First Minister said the Covid situation is under control in some island communities, meaning they will move down to Level 1 on Monday.

A notable change to the planned easing of restrictions on the 17th is that indoor gatherings will now be allowed for up to six people from three households.

Previously, it was planned that only four people from two households would be able to meet indoors.

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Significantly, when family and friends meet indoors or in private gardens, hugging will be allowed and it will no longer be necessary to maintain physical distancing.

There will also be a wider review on whether physical distancing is needed in public indoor places, Ms Sturgeon said, although she warned that “close physical contact” does still carry risks.

What can we do in Scotland from 17 May?

As well as those welcome changes, from 17 May Scots will also be able to meet with up to eight adults from eight households outside.

More restrictions on indoor hospitality will also be relaxed, with alcohol served in pubs and restaurants.

There will be an updated curfew of 10:30pm with two-hour booking slots for a maximum of six people from three households.

Furthermore, indoor entertainment venues, such as cinemas, theatres, concert halls, comedy clubs, bingo halls and amusement arcades, will be able to reopen, and indoor group exercises will be able to resume.

When it comes to events starting back up, up to 100 people will be allowed to attend indoors, while the limit is increased to 250 at an outdoor standing event and 500 at an outdoor event with seating.

The rules on events will also continue to be reviewed, including around physical distancing, Ms Sturgeon said.

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More students will also be permitted to return to university or college, and outdoor adult contact sports will resume.

What about international travel?

The First Minister also announced changes to the ban on international travel.

From 17 May, a traffic light system, similar to the one introduced in England, will be implemented.

Those returning to Scotland from red list countries will have to isolate in a government-approved hotel, while those coming from amber list destinations will need to self isolate at home and take two PCR tests.

People arriving from green list countries will not need to quarantine but will need to take a PCR test shortly after arrival.

The twelve countries on the green list are the same as those announced for England - including Portugal and Gibraltar.

Ms Sturgeon said a “consistent four nations position” had been taken on international travel, thanks to the UK Government arriving at cautious decisions when announcing plans for foreign holidays to go ahead this year.

However, she warned that people should think about whether they need to travel abroad in summer.