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Covid Scotland: ‘Phased and careful’ removal of restrictions begin

Coronavirus restrictions brought in to halt the spread of Omicron will be eased from next week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

Rules have been in place since Boxing Day which limit the number of people who can attend outdoor events to a maximum of 500, but Ms Sturgeon has announced this will be lifted from Monday – a move which will allow sports fans to return to football grounds and attend Six Nations rugby matches in Edinburgh.

During an update to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said more restrictions will be lifted from January 24, however this is subject to review.

The average number of daily cases in the last seven days has fallen 17% compared to the previous week, and cases have now fallen across all age groups apart from over 85s.

Ms Sturgeon said it was important to lift the measures in a “phased and careful way”.

Holyrood heard the fact that the spread of Omicron had not been as bad as feared – with early predictions suggesting infections could reach 50,000 a day, instead of the 30,000 peak so far – had helped shaped today’s decision.

Ms Sturgeon added: “It is very likely that the situation we face now, though serious, would have been even more challenging without the renewed sacrifices made by people across the country over these last few weeks.

“Further, while we need to be cautious in our interpretation of the daily case numbers at this stage, we can see from those and also from hospital data, some early indications that the situation might be starting to improve.”

A person holding a smartphone with the new covid vaccine passport app for Scotland
Changes will be made to the NHS app on Thursday.

Changes to meaning of ‘fully vaccinated’

Changes to what it means to be fully vaccinated were also announced.

The new guidance states that those who had their second dose of the vaccine more than four months ago will need to have a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated.

From Thursday, changes to the NHS passport app will mean that the QR codes will include information on booster doses.

Despite the good news about Omicron, the first minister reiterated her plea for the unvaccinated to get their jabs.

She said that those who are eligible for the vaccine but have not accepted it are putting themselves and others at “unnecessary risk”.

She added: “The latest available data, adjusted for age, suggests that someone not fully vaccinated is at least four times more likely to require hospital treatment than someone who has had a booster or third dose.

scotland covid update
Nicola Sturgeon repeated her plea for Scots to get vaccinated.

“So whatever age you are, getting boosted is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the worst impacts of Covid, and to reduce pressure on the NHS.”

Keep limiting social interaction

The first minister also asked that Scots continue limiting their social interaction, saying: “The advice to the general public to try to limit contact with people in other households, and in particular to limit the number of households in any indoor gathering to a maximum of three.

“We are not advising people to cut all social interaction. That simply isn’t practical, and has a serious impact on mental health and wellbeing.

“But trying to limit social interactions remains a sensible step at this stage.

“It helps stem to some extent increases in transmission – and so has a collective benefit.”

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