Most remaining coronavirus restrictions in Scotland will be lifted next week, although the requirement to wear masks would remain, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday.
The legal requirement for physical distancing and limits on gatherings will be removed on 9 August when all venues across Scotland are able to re-open.
Some measures such as the use of face coverings indoors and the collection of contact details as part of Test and Protect will stay in place, subject to review on a three weekly basis.
Adults identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 will also no longer be automatically required to self-isolate for 10 days from 9 August. Anyone who is double-vaccinated with at least two weeks passed since their second dose and who has no symptoms will be able to end self-isolation if they return a negative PCR test.
The same conditions will also apply to anyone aged between five and 17 years old, even if they have not been vaccinated. The requirement to take a PCR test will not apply to children under the age of five.
Scotland has already met the gateway condition on vaccination, with 92 per cent of those over the age of 40 given two doses of the vaccine.
“This change is significant and it is hard-earned. The sacrifices everyone has made over the past year and a half can never be overstated” Sturgeon said.
“However, while this move will restore a substantial degree of normality, it is important to be clear that it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck.”
The government said it will soon publish further guidance to businesses to help them adopt measures to mitigate risks, including ensuring good ventilation; maintaining good hand hygiene; practising respiratory hygiene; getting vaccinated; and continuing to engage with Test and Protect.
Scottish licensed trade hailed the move as “the news we’ve been waiting for”.
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: “This is the best news the licensed hospitality industry has had for over a year – it’s the news we’ve been waiting for and I’m sure there will be a few champagne corks popping to celebrate, at long last, a return to near normal trading.
“We are particularly relieved that physical distancing restrictions can be dropped as the one-metre rule made trading very difficult for some premises, particularly smaller ones – premises can now get back to operating at maximum capacity.
“However, while we understand why the Scottish Government wants to keep some mitigation measures in place, including the mandatory wearing of face coverings in some public spaces and a need for hospitality and indoor venues to continue to collect customer’s contact details, we hope that this is a short-term requirement.”
Changes to self-isolation requirements are also welcomed as this is a major ongoing problem for the sector, Wilkinson noted.
“We are also relieved that those identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 will no longer be automatically required to self-isolate for 10 – many businesses have been forced to close temporarily while staff self-isolate and this has been a big, big problem for our industry.”
Wilkinson also reiterated the SLTA’s previous calls for further financial aid to ensure the survival of the licensed hospitality industry with an extension to the current support schemes available.