First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed a further easing of Covid restrictions in Scotland from August 9.
During a briefing at Holyrood, the first minister said the country would start to move “beyond level 0” from next week as planned.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The move beyond Level 0 will entail the lifting of most of the remaining legally imposed restrictions – most notably, on physical distancing and limits to the size of social gatherings.
“It also means that from 9 August, no venues will be legally required to close. 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.
“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.
“Declaring freedom from, or victory over, this virus is in my view premature. The harm the virus can do, including through the impact of long Covid, should not be underestimated. And its ability to mutate may yet pose us real challenges.”
What is changing on August 9?
Further, no venues will be legally required to close which will good news for businesses which have been closed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Capacity limits of 2000 people indoors and 5000 people outdoors will also remain in place, but some exceptions may be possible.
These restrictions will be reviewed every three weeks to ensure they remain proportionate.
Face coverings will remain mandatory in indoor public places and on public transport, with the first minister adding that they “might be mandated in law for some time to come.”
The Track and Trace system will continue to be used in public places, which includes people sharing their contact information to help reduce the spread of the virus.
However, close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid will no longer have to “automatically” self-isolate for 10 days.
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 have a negative PCR test result.
The same will apply to those aged between five and 17 even if they have not been vaccinated, but those under five will not have to take a PCR test.
Those who test positive for Covid will still have to self-isolate.
She also announced that partial returns to offices can begin with employers being urged to apply a hybrid model of office and home working.
Returning to school
The majority of the mitigations that were in place in schools across Scotland before the summer holidays will remain in place for up to six weeks.
Continuing in the same manner will help support a “safe and sustainable” return to schools for staff and pupils.
This means face masks will continue to be worn in schools which Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader, said will “limit young people’s learning and prevent a return to normality in classrooms.”
The Test and Protect service will also change for under 18s with whole school classes no longer being told to self-isolate.
Instead, a targeted approach will be adopted to identify children and younger people who are higher risk close contacts.
This means fewer school-aged people with have to self-isolate and those who do will isolate for a shorter time.
A decline in cases
The decision to ease restrictions has been based on the latest case numbers, hospital admissions and the vaccination rollout.
Covid cases in Scotland reached a peak in early July but have since fallen by two thirds. The number of hospital admissions have also dropped from 529 to 406 in a week.
Ms Sturgeon said this was “good news” that showed the value of a careful and steady approach out of lockdown.
She also highlighted the success of the vaccination rollout so far, confirming that all over 40s in Scotland have now been offered both doses.
The uptake of the vaccine among the over 60s is as close to 100% as possible and 90% of over 18s have also now had their first dose.