First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced restrictions in Moray will be eased from midnight.
The region’s move down to Level 2 follows a drop in cases which will bring it in line with most of the mainland.
At today’s update, the first minister said she knew it would be “welcome news” for people and businesses.
Moray was kept at Level 3 last week due to a rise in positive cases, but Ms Sturgeon has said experts are satisfied it is now safe to move.
Ms Sturgeon said the situation has improved “very significantly” with positive testing having fallen to 1.3% and vaccine performance being “remarkable”.
She also shared that the April 0.2 variant – previously referred to as the Indian variant – is not as “commonly present” in Moray, compared to other parts of the country such as Glasgow.
The relaxation of the rules means groups of six from up to three households can socialise indoors and stay overnight, while eight people from eight households can meet outdoors.
Hospitality businesses can now serve alcohol indoors, and residents of Moray will be able to travel to areas in Level 1 and 2.
‘Great news’ for local economy
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said the decision would come as a “huge sense of relief” for locals.
He said: “Of course, the rest of the country has been able to take advantage of the eased restrictions for the last week or so, and now Moray is able to do so as well.
“It has been a long time coming and I know many people will be looking forward to visiting their loved ones or family or friends, and it is also great news for the local economy.
“I want to pay tribute to the people of Moray for taking advantage of the expanded testing regime we have locally, and also getting themselves vaccinated, so we can bring those case numbers down and allow us to move forward.
“This is a good day for Moray and good news for our local families, our communities and the local economy.”
Glasgow to remain at L3, while East Renfrewshire under review
Ms Sturgeon announced that case numbers in Glasgow were still causing concern, and that as a result, “regrettably” the city will remain at Level 3 – the only place in Scotland now facing the tighter restrictions.
However, East Renfrewshire – where cases are now higher than Glasgow – is being kept under “close review” and may be moved up from Level 2.
East Renfrewshire has 118 cases per 100,000 of population but is a significantly smaller area than Glasgow.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Yesterday there were actually just 17 new cases reported in East Renfrewshire, compared to 166 in Glasgow.”
The first minister said she was not yet confident that the virus has slowed enough for restrictions in Glasgow to be eased.
Cases have continued to rise in Glasgow which is thought to be due to the April 0.2 variant. Testing, vaccination and contact tracing have been enhanced in the area.
However, Ms Sturgeon said: “We don’t think we have turned the corner in Glasgow yet.”
The situation in Glasgow will be reviewed on a weekly basis so the area does not remain under restrictions for longer than necessary.
Announcement bringing anxiety to hospitality sector
Ms Sturgeon acknowledged the decision would be “unwelcome” for businesses, including hospitality and retail.
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said: “The business community in Glasgow were handed a hammer blow last week and are deeply disappointed and disillusioned that more businesses could now reach crisis point as a result of these extended restrictions.
“The absolute priority must be to focus on managing these local outbreaks quickly to enable Scotland’s most populated city to open up, in line with the rest of the country.
“Businesses have invested heavily in Covid-safe measures and equipment and want a fair opportunity to trade. They have created safe environments and need time to plan and rebuild confidence.”
Andrew McRae, policy chairman from the Federation of Small Businesses’ Scotland, said: “The situation in Glasgow is excruciating for the city’s hospitality and tourism industry.
“From next week, Scotland’s largest city will be the only place in the UK where pubs and restaurants won’t be able to serve alcohol indoors. Understandably, business owners and their customers are intensely frustrated.”
During her briefing, Ms Sturgeon also announced travel restrictions are being put in place for Scots planning to travel to three local authority areas in England due to the prevalence of the April 0.2 strain.
Anyone planning to visit Bedford, Bolton or Blackburn/Darwen has been told to delay their trip.
Ms Sturgeon also reminded people in Level 1 and 2 that they should not travel into Level 3.