Scotland has today lifted the vast majority of its remaining Covid restrictions – with nightclubs set to reopen and social distancing rules at indoor venues and events scrapped.
The limits on the number of households allowed to meet indoors in Scotland have also been lifted today.
Meanwhile, Scots will also be able to order a drink from a bar – with table service requirements also scrapped.
It comes people in Scotland spent much of the Christmas period under significantly tougher Covid curbs than in England, with stringent limits on outdoor and indoor events.
But Covid infections in Scotland have tumbled since the New Year, leading to rules on outdoor events being lifted last week.
And now Nicola Sturgeon’s Government has lifted the vast majority of indoor Covid rules as well.
However some measures will remain in place. Work from home guidance will continue until at least February – when the Government will push towards a hybrid system – while ministers say face masks rules could continue for years.
Announcing the end of the restrictions, in a speech last Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘Although significant pressures and uncertainties do remain, the data nevertheless gives us confidence that we have turned the corner on the Omicron wave.’
Scotland has today lifted the vast majority of its remaining Covid restrictions – with nightclubs set to reopen and social distancing rules at indoor events scrapped
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last week nightclubs would be able to reopen, while the caps on indoor events, table service requirements for venues selling alcohol and social distancing will also be removed
She told MSPs: ‘A combination of booster vaccinations, the willingness of the public to adapt their behaviour to help stem transmission, and the temporary protective measures introduced in December, has helped blunt the impact of the Omicron wave.’
The First Minister also said there would be no extension to the vaccine passport scheme despite consideration by her cabinet.
Tory leader Douglas Ross said on Thursday the First Minister had been ‘too gung-ho’ in bringing in new restrictions when the new strain was detected.
But speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Morning show, Ms Sturgeon defended the use of restrictions, saying they were ‘worth it’.
‘The short answer, I think, is yes they were, although they have a big impact on businesses, and individuals.’
She added: ‘If you look at what we were predicting through our modelling would be the case in January before Christmas… it was around 50,000 infections a day and we didn’t see that materialise or anything like that materialise.
‘I think that was a combination of the acceleration of the booster campaign… these sensible, balanced, protective measures we introduced before Christmas and lastly – perhaps most importantly – the magnificent, responsible response of the public who changed their behaviour in the face of Omicron in order to try to stem transmission.
‘So, yes, I think what we did has been worth it and we’re hopefully now seeing Scotland… very firmly on the downward slope of that Omicron wave.’
The measures were put in place in December – along with a maximum capacity in outdoor events of 500, which was eased last Monday as the new variant caused a spike in cases – eventually peaking at more than 20,000 in the first days of 2022.
However, infections started to dip faster than expected, never reaching the worst case scenario the Scottish Government envisaged as possible – with projections suggesting 50,000 people could be infected daily with the new variant at the peak of the wave.
Despite falling infection numbers, Ms Sturgeon suggested face covering rules could remain in place for years.
She said they were ‘not the biggest handicap’ that people were having to endure as the country attempts to recover from Covid.
Asked yesterday on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme today if she can see people wearing masks for ‘months or years to come’, in Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I hope not. I don’t want any of these measures to be in place for any longer than is necessary.
‘But masks … are something we can do. None of us enjoy wearing them but they are perhaps not the biggest handicap to endure in order to try to stem transmission.
‘So while they can make a difference to controlling the virus then i think it is something we should do.
The First Minister said that face coverings were ‘not the biggest handicap’ that people were having to endure as the country attempts to recover from Covid.
Again I would suggest that it is England that is the outlier here, not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, or many countries across the world.’
Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for Covid recovery, Murdo Fraser said: ‘Nicola Sturgeon still can’t bring herself to admit the restrictions she imposed over Christmas were unnecessary.
‘The SNP are quick to impose Covid rules but far too slow in getting vital funding to businesses. It’s shameful that so many small companies are still waiting to receive a single penny.
‘It’s baffling that Nicola Sturgeon plans to continue with the vaccine passport scheme even though she can’t point to any hard evidence showing it’s effective.’
Her remarks on the English Covid regime echo those made by her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford at the start of January.
He branded England an international ‘outlier’ in resisting tighter curbs to tackle Omicron and accused the PM of overseeing a ‘politically paralysed’ administration that had tied his hands.
In contrast in England, Mr Johnson last week announced plans to scrap all Covid restrictions by the spring.
Plan B will also be ditched as the Omicron wave continued to recede.
The under-fire PM ended working from home with immediate effect, with the remaining Omicron-fighting measures — Covid passports and compulsory face masks — to be dropped from Thursday in an attempt to win back the support of Tory MPs and voters following the Partygate row.
He also laid out his intentions to remove all remaining Covid laws by March 24, including basic measures like mandatory self-isolation for positive cases and the requirement to give your address to NHS Test and Trace if you have Covid.