First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that mainland Scotland will move to Level 0 restrictions with some modifications to previous plans.
While England’s government has confirmed nearly all remaining Covid restrictions will end as of July 19, Ms Sturgeon has decided to exercise caution with case numbers still rising.
Several hospitals in the north and north-east have been sent into a state of emergency. Raigmore Hospital, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, and Dr Gray’s in Elgin entered ‘code black’ status.
It is hoped that the remaining restrictions that are in place following the First Minister’s announcement will be lifted on August 9.
After Boris Johnson’s decision and subsequent U-turn on masks being optional, Ms Sturgeon confirmed masks would be part of Scottish life “for some time to come.”
Changes to Level 0 restrictions
Level 0 has been described as being as close to normal as possible, but some changes have been made to previous plans.
- At events like weddings and funerals, a maximum of 200 people will be able to gather.
- Groups of up to eight people from four households can meet inside a home and stay overnight.
- Up to 10 people from eight households can meet in a public space like a restaurant.
- A number of modifications have been made, with hospitality venues required to close at midnight instead of times set out by local licensing laws as previously expected.
- Those wishing to attend hospitality venues will no longer be required to book a two-hour slot as in Level 2 but will need to provide contact details.
- In public places indoors, the physical distance requirement will be one meter.
- Outdoors, there will be no requirement to distance inside groups of 15.
- Groups of up to 15 people from 15 households outdoors
Work from home will continue
One of the key things expected to change with Scotland’s move to Level 0 restrictions was the gradual return to office spaces.
However, with the updated modifications set out by Ms Sturgeon, those working from home will have to do so for a little bit longer.
She said: “We had indicated that a gradual return to the office could begin at Level 0, but given the current situation, we intend to postpone this until we move beyond Level 0, which we still hope will be on August 9.”
Sympathising with those stuck working from home, she asked that employers continued to look out for their staff and added she was “hopeful” that it wouldn’t be for much longer.
The changes to plans have been made in a bid to minimise the number of people travelling and working close to one another as case numbers continue to rise.
Current situation in Scotland
Scotland is currently experiencing a surge in Covid cases, with 2,134 new positives confirmed yesterday.
The number of people with confirmed Covid currently in hospital has risen to 469, but this is still significantly lower than admissions during the January peak.
According to the latest data from Public Health Scotland, 20 people were admitted to intensive care overnight, doubling the total to 40.
There is a “fluctuating situation” across north and north-east hospitals at the moment, with many frontline workers facing mounting pressure.
Raigmore Hospital, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray’s in Elgin all entered ‘code black’ status last week as the rising Covid cases stretched health facilities to capacity.
Many staff members are currently self-isolating which is causing more pressure and has been met with demands for the rules for those who are fully vaccinated to be reconsidered.
Challenges from other parties
Following the announcement Douglas Ross highlighting the “catastrophic” impact on mental health and people’s lives as a whole during the pandemic and welcomes the news that the country will be moving to Level 0 next week.
Ms Sturgeon replied saying it’s a “critically important” point that we are moving to ease restrictions but taking a steady, gradual and cautious path out of lockdown.
She highlighted that they are putting additional staff in hospitals and changes are continuously being made to adapt.
In response to the vaccination roll-out being at a slower pace in the last few weeks, she said there are two factors that are important to take into account – one is the supply of vaccines and the gap between the two doses of receiving the vaccines.
On the pressure on hospitals, she said we cannot “complain about not moving faster to easing restriction and also saying that hospitals are under pressure”.