Covid in Scotland: Hospitality, gyms and shops to open from Monday

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed the most significant stage in Scotland's lockdown easing will go ahead as planned on Monday.

The biggest changes since the country went into lockdown on Boxing Day will include the reopening of hospitality, gyms and non-essential shops.

Non-essential travel with England, Wales and Northern Ireland will also be allowed for the first time this year.

Mainland Scotland will move down from level four to three restrictions.

Ms Sturgeon said that if the data continued to improve, the whole of Scotland would move to level two on 17 May.

This would allow people to meet indoors in small numbers and see a further easing of hospitality restrictions.

The first minister said she hoped that the country would move to level one on 7 June, and then to level zero later that month.

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image captionGyms are set to open in mid-April but only for individual exercise

She said life should look "much more like normality" during July.

"We are hopeful, very hopeful, of seeing sustained progress in the weeks and months ahead," she said.

However, Ms Sturgeon warned that travel restrictions between parts of Scotland and other parts of the UK could be introduced to deal with local outbreaks.

She also announced that from Monday lateral flow tests would be available to anyone in the country. The kits can be ordered online or picked up at testing centres in the afternoon and early evening.

Ms Sturgeon encouraged everyone to take advantage of the offer, especially those planning to visit Scotland's islands.

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image captionTravel between Scotland, England and Wales will be permitted

When Scotland moves down to level three restrictions on Monday, it will be possible for:

  • up to six people from two households to socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant
  • unrestricted travel within Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland (subject to local restrictions)
  • all shops, stores and close contact services like nail bars to open
  • hospitality venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants to open until 20:00 indoors, but without alcohol
  • alcohol to be served outdoors under local licensing restrictions
  • tourist accommodation to reopen (self-catering accommodation restricted in line with rules on indoor gathering)
  • funerals and weddings, including receptions, to take place with up to 50 people (alcohol permitted)
  • gyms and swimming pools to reopen for individual exercise
  • indoor attractions and public buildings such as galleries, museums and libraries to open

From this date, takeaways can be collected indoors, non-essential childcare will be allowed, non-essential work can be carried out inside houses and driving lessons and tests can take place again.

The first minister said people would be looking forward to doing things they have been unable to do for some time.

But she added: "We must remember that the virus we are dealing with now is much more infectious than it was when bars and cafes were last open so it is really important that as we enjoy these new restored freedoms we continue to be really careful and take all of the required precautions."

They expected 1m (3ft) social distancing to be in place between tables, but the proposals want people from different households to observe social distancing at tables.

But during the briefing Ms Sturgeon said this guidance had not changed since last year.

The easing of restrictions on 17 May should enable pubs to open indoors until 22:30 and allow contact sports and some small-scale events to take place.

From that date, up to four people from two households will also be able to meet indoors.

Other changes could include the return of cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls, along with indoor group exercise.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said all the public health evidence suggests the country is getting on top of the virus but the government should "safely and cautiously look to ease these restrictions a little bit quicker."

Mr Ross added he would like gyms to open before Monday and he would also have liked more freedom for hospitality from 26 April.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said it was right the government took a careful, phased approach to easing restrictions, backed up by data.

He told BBC Scotland: "The last thing we need is another lockdown. We have to make sure this is the last one."

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton welcomed the developments but called for the country's test and trace system to be "beefed up".

He added: "If new strains arrive in the Scotland we must have the resources in place to swiftly crush them before they can spread."

And Scottish Greens co-convenor Alison Johnstone said ministers should avoid the temptation to act with haste and continue to listen to the best scientific advice.

She also called for the government to be more proactive in terms of quarantine and said people should stay in Scotland for their holidays.

'Silver bullet'

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, called for additional support and compensation for businesses which have not yet been allowed to reopen.

She added: "To translate hope into reality, the business community needs the Scottish government to empower businesses to re-open with sensible guidelines that enable us to get back on our feet."

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, estimates non-essential stores lost out on £4bn of sales during the first 12 months of the pandemic.

He said: "Re-opening alone isn't a silver bullet which will save Scotland's shops.

"While we do expect a level of pent-up demand to return, shopper footfall is likely to be constrained for some weeks yet by the later re-opening of much of hospitality, tourism, and offices in our city centres."

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