Scotland's Covid rules to move 'beyond level zero' on August 9

Social distancing to be scrapped but Nicola Sturgeon warns virus remains prevalent

FILE PHOTO: First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon wears a Tartan mask as she visits New Look at Fort Kinnaird Retail Park, in Edinburgh, Scotland June 26, 2020. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on Wednesday that Scotland will lift most coronavirus restrictions on August 9 and leave the government’s five-level Covid framework after a drop in infections.

The move to “beyond level zero” means there will be no more social distancing measures and no business will be required by law to close.

Ms Sturgeon warned that the virus was still prevalent despite the proposed easing.

“It does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as before the pandemic struck,” she told the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in a virtual address.

Scotland has been in level 0 of its Covid plan since July 19.

Level 0 restrictions did not completely remove caps on the numbers of people permitted to meet indoors and outdoors, both informally and at events such as weddings which were limited to 50 people.

These limits will be ditched on August 9, as will the requirement for school pupils to isolate for 10 days should someone in their Covid bubble test positive, so long as they continue to test negative.

Rules on self-isolation for adults will be loosened, too, with identified "close contacts" of Covid cases able to avoid this fate if they are fully vaccinated and can provide a negative PCR test.

Ms Sturgeon announced a “careful return” to large-scale events. Organisers of outdoor events with more than 5,000 people and indoor events with over 2,000 people must get permission from local authorities. To go ahead, they will have to prove their plans incorporate appropriate risk-reducing measures.

In another sign that life will not return to pre-pandemic norms, face masks will still be mandated for indoor public places, including for staff and pupils in secondary schools. Working from home where possible will also continue to be encouraged.

How Scotland's Covid rules compare to England's

Moving to "beyond level zero" will align Scotland's Covid rules with England's to a far greater extent although small differences will remain.

Rules around mask wearing are the most notable point of divergence.

After so-called "Freedom Day" in England, the legal requirement to wear masks in certain settings was removed. Instead, the responsibility was devolved to businesses who can make mask-wearing a condition of use. Transport for London did this on the UK capital's transport network.

Another smaller difference is that organisers of large-scale events in England are not required to seek permission and a Covid-safety audit from local authorities.

School pupils are currently in holiday in England but, when they return on September 3, they will also move to a system of contact testing from one of contact isolation, as planned by Scotland on August 9.

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Updated: August 3rd 2021, 4:01 PM