Published by BBC NEWS - 24th January 2022

nightclub

Image source, Getty Images

Scotland’s Covid restrictions have been eased to allow the reopening of nightclubs and the return of large indoor events.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Sunday that “we’re hopefully seeing Scotland firmly on the downward slope”.

However, people are still being asked to work from home and take lateral flow tests before meeting others.

The changes were announced last week following a significant fall in new case numbers.

Guidance advising adults against meeting up with more than three households at a time has also been dropped, along with restrictions on indoor contact sports.

The measures had been introduced over the festive period to address the spread of the Omicron variant. It is now believed to have peaked in the first week of January.

The percentage of positive tests has dropped from almost 30% in early January to under 20% .

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The number of people being admitted to hospital with Covid is also falling.

In total, 6,329 positive cases were reported on Sunday with 1,441 patients in hospital. It is down from 7,158 cases a week earlier, with 100 fewer people in hospital.

Restrictions on numbers at indoor public events and the requirement for 1m physical distancing and table service in hospitality venues will also be removed.

However, longer-running measures such as the use of face coverings on public transport and indoor public places remain in place.

Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme for businesses and events will also continue. Ms Sturgeon said it helped as “a package of measures” to protect against transmission.

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In an interview with the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, she said: “I don’t underplay the impact of any of these measures on businesses and the night-time industry, but checking Covid certification is a better alternative to being closed.”

She said that vaccine passports were “not causing anybody any real hardship” and had allowed large events to go ahead.

The first minister said she hoped that passports and wearing of facemasks would “eventually” come to an end.

But she said there would be big “economic consequences” if we allowed the virus to spread in an uncontrolled way.

Despite restrictions easing, people have been advised to keep social meet-ups small to reduce the risk of infection.

pub eating

Image source, Getty Images

Workers should also continue to work from home where possible. Ministers are due to hold talks with business leaders about a return to a hybrid working approach from February.

Ms Sturgeon said the financial impact of Covid restrictions on business and hospitality had been “worth it” to stop the spread of Omicron.

She told the programme: “It is not a case of having protective measures and businesses are damaged, or having no proactive measures and everything is fine.

“It is the difference between having protective measures that stem transmission, or allowing transmission to go completely uncontrolled – in which case the impact on business is even greater and even more damaging.”

The lifting of restrictions was welcomed by business groups.

CBI Scotland said last week that it was “a huge relief to firms desperate to start trading their way to recovery after a difficult festive period”.

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