Nicola Sturgeon to announce if Covid restrictions to be eased further

The First Minister will make a statement on the relaxing of restrictions on Tuesday afternoon.

15 March 2022

Scotland’s First Minister on Tuesday is set to outline if coronavirus restrictions are to be eased further as the country’s top doctor urged caution.

It comes hours after the Scottish Government “reluctantly agreed” to lift all international travel restrictions for Scotland this week at a four-nation meeting on Monday.

Nicola Sturgeon announced last month that the requirement to wear face coverings on public transport and in certain public places would be converted to guidance as of March 21 “assuming no significant adverse developments in the course of the virus”.

The First Minister also said there could be an easing on the requirements for businesses to log customer details, along with an end to the legal requirement for business to have regard for government guidance on coronavirus.

But recent weeks have seen a spike in cases and the highest number of hospitalisations for more than a year.

Since the announcement made by the First Minister on February 22, daily case numbers have more than doubled from 6,427 to 13,220 on Friday – although the figure rose sharply after officials began counting reinfections in daily figures on March 1.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 also rose from 1,060 to 1,663 during the same period.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Monday, chief medical officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith said ministers would be advised to take a “cautious approach” when the cabinet met on Tuesday morning ahead of an afternoon statement from the First Minister.

“I think that a cautious approach, at this point in time, is probably the right approach, and we’re already seeing the public adopting those additional protections,” he said.

But the chief medical officer said there were “some hopeful signs” hospital admissions could have “begun to kind of top out just a little bit over the course of the latter end of last week”.

The Scottish Tories urged the First Minister to stick to the original time scale despite the increasing case numbers.

“The First Minister must not use the rise in infection rates as an excuse to kick the can further down the road. The last remaining Covid restrictions must end, as planned, next Monday,” said Dr Sandesh Gulhane, the party’s health spokesman.

“Of course, we must all remain vigilant and use common sense because Covid has not gone away – but the First Minister accepted last month that we have to learn to live with it.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader, Jackie Baillie, said the Scottish Government should continue to support Test and Protect – the contact tracing regime – and ensure that testing remains free after the UK Government said it would scale it back from April 1.

“The continued progress towards some form of normality is to be welcomed after Scotland being under restrictions for so long,” Ms Baillie added.

“But while this progress is welcome, it is clear that we are not out of the woods yet.”

Lib Dem leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, pushed the Scottish Government to lay out a “clear plan of action”, that included a public information campaign to ensure Scots report positive test results, as well as the scrapping of the vaccine passport scheme and roll out air filters to every classroom in Scotland.

Earlier, the Scottish Government said it was concerned about a lack of border control measures after it “reluctantly agreed” to align on a “four-nation basis” to scrap international travel rules this week.

From 4am on Friday, fully vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to complete passenger locator forms under the change.

Non-vaccinated travellers will cease having to take pre-departure and day two PCR tests, or complete locator forms.

The changes will only apply to incoming travellers, and passengers should continue to check gov.uk for the latest information on requirements in other countries when travelling abroad.

Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said that despite the Scottish Government’s reservations, the changes will “significantly open up international travel”.

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