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Key questions facing Nicola Sturgeon as she prepares for Covid briefing on Tuesday

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls for a gradual lifting of most Covid rules beyond the wearing of face masks in public, as she prepares for the next virus update in parliament on Tuesday.

Crowds are now able to return to football games and outdoor events.

Hospitality bosses are hoping that table service requirements are scrapped as they push for a return to normal.

But as the country continues to deal with the Omicron variant, here are some of the key questions Ms Sturgeon will be expected to answer when she address Holyrood.

Are nightclubs reopening?

The First Minister confirmed last Tuesday that curbs on pubs and clubs would remain in place for another week.

Restaurants and bars can still only serve customers via table service despite other restrictions being relaxed.

Nightclubs have been shut since after Christmas with party venues forced to close unless they could operate as a pub.

But Ms Sturgeon told SNP colleagues and rivals she hopes to be able to ease hospitality rules from January 24.

Tories said Scottish Government restrictions were unnecessary and had been harmful to pubs.

Business leaders have also begged Ms Sturgeon to relax curbs on clubs with fears venues could fold due to a loss of income.

When will all restrictions end?

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross is expected to demand most Covid restrictions are all scrapped next month.

The Conservatives north of the border want an end to curbs on businesses and social distancing rules to be scrapped.

Mr Ross will also ask for self-isolation rules to be gradually phased out and the vaccine passport scheme to be abandoned.

Douglas Ross wants nearly all Covid restrictions to be scrapped soon.

The Tories believe Scots should continue wearing masks, but say they should not be mandatory in schools.

Mr Ross said: “Protecting mental health, physical health and Scottish jobs is every bit as important as slowing the spread of Covid. Our economy and the long-term health of the public must not be held back any longer than necessary.

“We believe the balance must now tip in favour of trusting the Scottish public to do the right thing and keep themselves and their families safe, as they have done throughout this pandemic.

“People across Scotland have learned to live with Covid.”

But Ms Sturgeon defended her government’s restrictions on Sky News on Monday.

She said: “We’re in a much stronger position than we would have been.”

The First Minister has also repeatedly urged for caution over the Omicron Covid wave despite optimism in recent weeks.

Is Scotland past the Omicron peak?

The First Minister indicated last week that the country could be passing the worst of the Omicron wave as cases started to fall.

The highly transmissible new variant had sparked record case numbers with fears the NHS could be overwhelmed due to high infection rates and staff having to self-isolate.

But deaths have remained low despite the case surge with booster vaccines helping to protect the public from becoming seriously ill.

Chief medical officer Sir Gregor Smith said this morning there had been “genuine improvement” in the virus data.

I’m encouraged by what I see just now.

– Sir Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer

But he warned that children going back to school after New Year could fuel some further infections in weeks to come.

The medical expert said: “When we look at the data what we can now see is distinct and encouraging signs of progress.

“It’s been unstable for a while due to the holiday period, but it does appear there is some genuine improvement.

“Certainly I’m encouraged by what I see just now. We’re probably still to see the full effect of the return of children to school.

Tory boss Mr Ross said: “The Scottish Government’s own data shows that we are past the peak of Omicron. The latest evidence means we can now be far more optimistic.”

Will self-isolation rules be relaxed?

Just under a fortnight ago Nicola Sturgeon eased Covid quarantine rules – with Scots able to self-isolate for seven days instead of ten if they register two negative tests.

The SNP chief updated the requirements to help ease pressure on hospital and other vital services with many workers forced to stay at home after catching the virus.

But calls have been made to cut down the self-isolation period further, with the Tories wanting to know when the rules will be scrapped entirely.

Residents in England now only need to quarantine for five full days if they can prove they are no longer infectious.

Medical boss Sir Gregor said earlier he believes the current rules offer a “proportional approach”.

He added: “At this moment in time I wouldn’t be advising we get rid of isolation.

“There’s a concept many people have in their minds that Omicron is a completely safe infection. I’m afraid that’s not the case.”

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