Scotland is taking its most significant steps out of the coronavirus lockdown to date, with Nicola Sturgeon announcing a relaxation of the rules allowing people to mix indoors and confirming plans for bars, restaurants and hairdressers to reopen.
The First Minister said it is “undoubtedly a time for cautious hope and optimism”, as she hailed progress made so far in tackling Covid-19 in Scotland.
But with more services reopening and people now permitted to gather with other households indoors, she stressed it is also a time of “real danger” – and she urged the public to keep following the rules on physical distancing, hand washing and wearing face coverings.
The most recent estimate is that 1,000 people in Scotland are infectious, she said, and the “prevalence of the virus in Scotland is at this stage several times lower than it is across the UK as a whole”.
The changes mean that from Monday, children can enjoy contact sports and shopping centres can fully reopen.
On Wednesday July 15, hairdressers, indoor pubs and restaurants can all restart business, and museums and galleries can open their doors once again.
On the same day, places of worship can reopen for communal prayer, congregational services and contemplation – but with restrictions on numbers, singing and chanting.
The First Minister told Scots: “We should all savour our first indoor meetings and meals with friends, our first pint in a pub or catch up over coffee. Many of us are looking forward to our first non-amateur haircut in months.
“And there will be other milestones and reunions that we will enjoy over the next few weeks. They have been hard earned by each and every one of us.”
“Next week represents the most substantial easing of lockdown so far.
“We know that meeting people indoors poses far greater risks than going to a park or to someone’s garden.”
From Friday, people in one household can meet up to two others at a time indoors, with up to eight people in total permitted, and overnight stays are allowed.
Children aged 11 and under will no longer have to socially distance from other youngsters or adults indoors or out – but older children and adults must continue to keep apart.
In response, Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw referenced Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s mini-Budget aimed at boosting the economy as he called on the Scottish Government to be more ambitious.
Mr Carlaw said: “What Scotland is now looking for is prompt, radical and ambitious action from this Government to support our tourism industry, to keep young people in jobs, and to rebuild our country.”
The First Minister welcomed the Chancellor’s latest measures “as far as they go”.
She also said: “The most important thing this Government needs to do for our tourism sector, for our economy, for society generally and frankly for every individual in the country, is to provide the most sustainable basis for the recovery from the Covid crisis.
“Right now Scotland is being successful in tackling and suppressing this virus – perhaps more than is the case elsewhere in the UK.”