Groups of friends in Aberdeen have been celebrating the relaxation of the limits on household gatherings by holding long-awaited outdoor reunions.
From today (Friday), six people from six different households are able to meet outdoors, a change in guidance that was announced somewhat unexpectedly on Monday.
Previously, four people from two households could meet each other outside – itself an easing of extremely tight rules in the couple of months following Christmas that allowed only two people from two households.
Monday’s announcement was met with delight from friend groups across the country, who were able to gather in the same place for the first time in almost five months.
Several of them had chosen a sunny but chilly Duthie Park for their reunion.
Ruth Legdon, Lynne Soulsby and Fiona Firth had brought a couple of picnic chairs to allow them to socially distance comfortably.
All retired teachers from Ferryhill School, they had been anticipating their get-together for a while.
Lynne said: “We last met up on my birthday, which is December 22, and we’ve only talked using WhatsApp since then.”
The announcement on Monday came as a pleasant surprise for them all.
Fiona said: “We had an afternoon tea booked for a couple of weeks’ time when places were opening up, but then we realised we could all meet up today!”
Lynne added: “We’ll be here till midnight, chatting to each other.”
The three friends all expressed their hope that the unscheduled relaxation signals what Ruth called “the start of the new norm”.
Similar sentiments came from a group of four young friends who were enjoying a picnic by the park’s bandstand.
Sarah Wood, 23, Rebecca Brewer, 23, Ivy Gray, 20, and Michael McConnach, 24, were also meeting up for the first time since December.
Lifeguard Ivy said: “It’s good, it feels like there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s been a long time since we were able to meet up, there’s been a lot of Zoom calls.”
Student Sarah added: “It’s really windy, but we’ve got to push through because this is it, finally!”
The announcement of a relaxation was particularly welcomed by the students, who have been denied social contact for a significant chunk of their final years at university.
Rebecca said: “It was nice to hear, especially because we’re graduating as well and a lot of the last year has been online.”
Michael, a student nurse, said: “I had graduation yesterday and it was over Zoom.
“I’m hoping to just meet people in the park and make sure we keep in touch.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also announced on Monday that travel restrictions would be lifted across mainland Scotland, allowing people to meet up with friends and family no matter where they live.
Travel to Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles will return on April 26, when the rest of the country will join them in Level 3 coronavirus restrictions.
That date will also mark the most significant easing of lockdown since last summer, with non-essential retail, libraries and museums opening as the country’s tourism industry starts up again.
Restaurants and bars will be able to reopen from April 26 too, with alcohol initially being served outdoors only.