Bars have been frantically calling staff to work and residents have been hurriedly making plans with friends after confirmation Moray will move to Level 2 restrictions.
The region has watched on while the rest of the north and north-east have enjoyed pints indoors and hugs with loved ones in the last week.
However, now it is the turn of Moray to enjoy long overdue reunions after a recent surge of Covid cases has eased.
NHS Grampian has praised a “truly impressive” community effort for the drop as locals took tests and turned up for vaccines late into the evenings to control the spread.
Level 2 move brings joy to pub goers
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the situation had improved “very significantly” to allow the restrictions to be dropped from midnight on Friday night.
And the suddenness of the move, which will come into effect just 12 hours after Ms Sturgeon confirmed it, has come as an unexpected boost to many.
Adele Little, from Lossiemouth, said: “I watched the (Scottish Government) briefing. I was confident we would come down to Level 2 because I watch the numbers but I thought it was going to happen on Monday because that’s when things tend to change – so it’s even better.
“It’s been absolutely horrible, so restrictive. I’m going to be going out for a bite to eat with friends. We haven’t seen each other since before Christmas.”
Dave Sinclair, from Elgin, said: “I can’t wait to have a drink with my pals again. It’s been so lonely the last few months, very tough.
“We’ve tried sitting in beer gardens but it’s been freezing so haven’t done it much. It’s going to make a big difference to just sit and chat inside again.”
Sheelagh Smith, from Lossiemouth, said: “It’s going to be so good to have people round the house again.
“I’ve found it very tough not being able to socialise and go to restaurants and gyms. We did try and go down and sit outside at the Brander Arms but it has been freezing.”
Bars ready for predicted customer rush
Bars across Moray have been frantically calling staff to work this weekend with countless rotas redrawn to cope with the return of indoor customers.
The Mosset Tavern in Forres has drafted six extra personnel to work on Saturday and Sunday in anticipation of a rush of people eager to drink indoors.
Owner Gordon Brailsford said: “The restrictions getting eased at midnight came as a big surprise.
“We were confident we were going to be moving down a level but didn’t see that one coming – although it’s hugely welcome and we’re ready for it.
“The Mosset has done well through the lockdown through the phenomenal support of our customers, but it’s great that Moray is going to be open for business for people to able to enjoy a dram indoors.”
Businesses across Moray are beginning preparations to reopen.
The Moray Playhouse cinema in Elgin has announced it will turn the projectors on once again in the coming weeks when films are booked.
John McCormick, who has recently opened the Vistro vegan cafe in Elgin, said the move would allow him to increase his capacity from 24 to 32 seats.
He said: “It’s going to mean a lot for me to have friends and family coming to see the place for the first time.
“They live in Turriff so they’ve not been able to come through yet, so it’s brilliant they’re going to be able to come.
“It will mean a lot to customers too, you can tell there’s still a bit of uncertainty about what they’re able to do with households mixing.”
What can I do in Level 2 in Moray?
- Maximum of six people from three households can meet in homes with no social distancing, or in cafes or restaurants with social distancing.
- Up to eight people from eight households can meet outdoors.
- Pubs, cafes and restaurants are now able to serve alcohol indoors until 10.30pm with two-hour pre-booked slots.
- Cinemas and bingo halls can reopen.
- Tourist accommodation can open with the same in-home rules in self-catering premises.
- Outdoor and indoor group exercise and non-contact sport can restart with safety measures.
Warning progress in Moray could be ‘fragile’
NHS Grampian has praised the “community effort” of people across Moray for reversing the rise in Covid cases to move to Level 2.
Just weeks ago positive test numbers were rising quickly amid concerns about uncontrolled community transmission in Elgin and elsewhere.
However, case numbers have dropped sharply during the last week 35.48 cases per 100,000 people during the last seven days – less than a third of what they were on May 10.
From Saturday 22 May, Moray will move into #coronavirus protection Level 2.
East Renfrewshire will remain at Level 2, with enhanced public health measures in place to keep rising cases under control.
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) May 21, 2021
Chris Littlejohn, NHS Grampian’s deputy director of public health, said: “I hope the behaviour we have seen in Moray becomes a habit for people, not just there, but across the Grampian region.
“Accessing regular asymptomatic testing is vital, especially when one in three people with Covid-19 display no symptoms. Please don’t think one negative result is enough, regular testing will stop this virus in its tracks.
“This message applies not just to people living locally, but to all visitors to the area. With the lifting of travel restrictions in Moray, all parts of Grampian are open to visitors.
“This is a beautiful part of the world and we are happy to share, but that comes with an ask to anyone staying in the area to please access testing.”
Moray Council chief executive Roddy Burns said: “The move to Level 2 means so much to so many – our residents, who can make the most of more freedoms including the simple pleasures of hugging their loved ones and socialising indoors, visitors, who will be warmly welcomed and who we ask they enjoy Moray safely and responsibly, and businesses, who are ready and waiting to throw open their doors as restrictions ease.
“This outbreak in Moray has brought it home how easy it is for the virus to run out of control. We all have a responsibility to play our part in reducing the risk of transmitting coronavirus, our progress is welcome but fragile.”