‘Emotional’ Sturgeon eases lockdown

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Indoor visits and hugs are back for many in Scotland from Monday,  Nicola Sturgeon has announced this afternoon.

In the most significant relaxation of the Covid rules this year, the First Minister said much of mainland Scotland would move down to level two from Monday.

That will allow the number of people who can meet outdoors to rise to eight people from up to eight households rather than the current six from six.

More importantly, level two allows up to six people from up to three households to be able to meet in each others’ homes, including overnight stays.

And providing people stay within those numbers indoors, it will ‘no longer be necessary to maintain physical distancing,’ she added.

Alcohol will also be permitted to be served indoors up until 10.30pm from Monday, she added.

Addressing a news conference at lunchtime, Miss Sturgeon said: ‘I actually feel a bit emotional saying this, that from Monday, as long as you stay within permitted limits you can hug your loved ones again. I know how desperate we all are for this.’

She added: ‘It is almost eight months now since most of us have been able to meet in each others’ homes. I know how much everyone has been looking forward to be able to do this again and it is one of the simple pleasures in life that I suspect, and I hope, that none of us will ever take quite so much for granted again.’

One of the biggest boosts came for communities on the islands where the restrictions will be relaxed even further and drop to level one.

That too relaxes restrictions around the numbers of people meeting indoors and on indoor hospitality.

The Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney, along with the Inner Hebrides islands including Islay, Jura and Mull, and all islands in the Highland area – except Skye because of its bridge to the mainland – will move to level one from Monday.

However, First Minister stressed that it was vital to remain cautious and guard against Covid as people could still be vulnerable.

She advised people to limit the amount of people that they have close physical contact with.

Moray has seen cases rise with ‘widespread community transmission’ which is likely to spell a lockdown and curbs on travel in and out, she said.

But from Monday, venues including cinemas, theatres, concert halls, comedy clubs, casinos, amusement arcades, snooker halls and bingo halls, can also all reopen.

Amateur performing arts groups can perform outdoors initially and outdoor adult contact sport can also resume. More than one person can sing during religious services but congregational singing is still not yet permitted.