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coronavirus

Physical distancing to be scrapped as Sturgeon confirms easing of restrictions

Nicola Sturgeon emphasised that the pandemic is not over as she announced an easing of restrictions.

The legal requirement of most COVID-19 restrictions including physical distancing will come to an end from Monday, August 9, the First Minister has confirmed.

In an address to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the country would be moving beyond Level Zero of the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The limitations on social gatherings will also be scrapped, and all venues, including nightclubs, will be able to re-open.

The ending of distancing will spell good news for pubs, restaurants, entertainment and leisure venues.

However, capacity limits of 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors will also remain in place for now although some exceptions may be possible on a case-by-case basis.

The use of face coverings will remain in use inside for “some time to come” and businesses will also be required to continue to take contact details as part of test and protect.

Adults identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will also no longer be automatically required to self-isolate for ten days from next Monday.

Anyone who is double-vaccinated with at least two weeks passed since their second dose and who has no symptoms will be able to end self-isolation if they return a negative PCR test.

The same conditions will also apply to anyone aged between five and 17 years old, even if they have not been vaccinated. The requirement to take a PCR test will not apply to children under the age of five.

Test and Protect will also implement revised guidance for under 18s. This means that the blanket isolation of whole classes in schools will no longer happen and a targeted approach, that only identifies children and young people who are higher risk close contacts, will be adopted.

Fewer young people will have to self-isolate, and most will be asked to self-isolate for a much shorter period of time.

To allow time to monitor the impacts of these changes, the majority of the mitigations, including face mask use and distancing of at least one-metre, will be retained for up to six weeks. This will help support a safe and sustainable return to education after the summer break.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The move beyond Level Zero will entail the lifting of most of the remaining legally imposed restrictions — most notably, on physical distancing and limits to the size of social gatherings. It also means that from August 9, no venues will be legally required to close.

“This change is significant and it is 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.

“Declaring freedom from, or victory over, this virus is in my view premature. The harm the virus can do, including through the impact of long COVID, should not be underestimated. And its ability to mutate may yet pose us real challenges.”