Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that the north and north-east of Scotland will be moving down to Level 1 of coronavirus restrictions from midnight on Friday.
The Highlands, Moray, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire will move to Level 1 at midnight on Friday, into Saturday, alongside Angus and Argyll and Bute.
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland will move to Level 0 at the same time.
However, Dundee, Edinburgh, Midlothian, the three Ayrshires, Renfrewshire and Stirling will remain at Level 2. Ms Sturgeon stressed this is a “pause, not a step backwards”.
She announced that Glasgow will move to Level 2 tonight, Tuesday June 1, after being the only area in Level 3.
What do the changes mean for areas moving to Level 1?
In Level 1 people can meet in groups of up to six people from three households in a private home, and guests can stay overnight. There is no need to physically distance from family and friends in a private home.
Up to eight people from three households can meet in an indoor public place like a café, pub or restaurant, and up to 12 people from 12 households will be able to meet outdoors in a private garden or public space.
Under 12s do not count towards the total number of people or households meeting outside but do count towards the number of households indoors.
People can travel anywhere in Scotland in Levels 0, 1 or 2, but must not enter an area if it is put back into Level 3 or 4 unless for a permitted reason.
Travel is permitted in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, however, it is advised that people check the travel rules before visiting the countries.
Up to 100 people will be able to attend weddings and funerals, in Level 2 only 50 guests were allowed.
Soft play, funfairs and bingo halls will be able to reopen in Level 1 for the first time this year. However, nightclubs and adult entertainment venues must remain closed.
What do the changes mean for areas moving to Level 0?
People in Level 0 areas can meet in groups of up to eight from four households in a private home, and guests can stay overnight. There is no need to physically distance from friends and family in a private home.
Up to 10 people from four households can meet in an indoor public place like a café, pub or restaurant, and up to 15 people from 15 households can meet outdoors.
Under 12s do not count towards the total number of people or households meeting outside but count towards the household numbers indoors.
Up to 200 people can attend weddings and funerals in Level 0 areas.
In regards to travel, the same rules apply in Level 0 areas that do in Level 1.
Additionally, nightclubs and adult entertainment venues still must remain closed.
It is suggested that a limited and phased return to offices takes place in Level 0 areas.
Announcement is “what businesses have been hoping for”
Moray MP, Douglas Ross, said: “I’m very pleased that restrictions in Moray will be eased further starting on Saturday, which will allow those businesses which have been prevented from operating fully, such as hospitality and tourism to get back to some sort of normality.
“This is what I have been calling for and what businesses have been hoping for.”
For the areas moving to Level 1 this will be the first time soft play centres, funfairs and bingo halls will be able to open this year.
Andrew Bowie, MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, explained: “This announcement will bring relief to struggling soft play centres, funfairs and bingo halls amongst others who have been fearing the worst this year.”
He hopes that the north-east is on the road to normality and that there is some “light at the end of the tunnel in time for summer”.
Moray moves to Level 1 alongside other areas
This was due to the area experiencing a surge in cases and the infection rate hitting more than 100 per 100,000 of population.
NHS Grampian accelerated the vaccination programme and included all those over the age of 18 to curb the spread.
On May 21 the first minister announced that Moray would move to Level 2 after the situation improved “very significantly”.
The latest move to Level 1 has been welcomed in the area.
MSP Richard Lochhead said: “Just a couple of weeks ago Moray was in a challenging place with a serious local outbreak but we’ve come a long way and thanks to the efforts of health and social care staff, public health teams, and of course the public, we’re now moving in a much more positive direction.”
Vaccinations ‘opening the path’
Ms Sturgeon said that vaccinations are opening the path to a less restrictive way of dealing with covid, but we are “not quite there yet.”
“We must still err on the side of caution,” she reiterated.
The ‘delta’ variant, or Indian variant, now accounts for well over half of the new cases in the country and Scotland’s R number is now above one.
However, the first minister said Scotland can be very optimistic about much greater normality later this summer and beyond, thanks to the success of the vaccination programme.
She added that everyone should be going to get vaccinated when we are called forward to do so. Anyone who thinks they should have received an invitation, but have not, can again visit the NHS Inform website.
Other politicians have praised the vaccination roll-out.
Western Isles council leader Roddie Mackay commented that it is “greatly encouraging” to see people have been taking the opportunity to get vaccinated.
Kevin Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central, said: “Everybody has made massive sacrifices to get to this point and to see us take such huge strides towards normality makes me so proud of everybody who lives here and so grateful for our NHS who have done an unbelievable job in rolling out the vaccine.”
Regular testing with free lateral flow kits
The first minister is urging people to get tested regularly, with free lateral flow tests available on the NHS Inform website. She suggests we each test ourselves twice a week “as a way for all of us to contribute to the collective effort”.
Islands MSP Alasdair Allan praised the vaccination team at NHS Western Isles and commented: “I would urge anyone who is planning to travel to the islands to take lateral flow tests. They can be ordered online for free and taking them before travel will help reduce the risk of importing the virus.”
Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur agrees that people planning on travelling between the mainland and the islands should make use of the tests available.
He said: “Having worked so hard to see these restrictions eased, we must now make sure there is no going backwards over the months ahead.”