Several of the last remaining Covid rules introduced by the Scottish Government last month to stem the spread of the Omicron variant have now been lifted.
After a period of only basic rules such as mask-wearing being imposed, limits on large gatherings and new guidance for hospitality were brought in again in December to buy time before the level of threat posed by the variant was established.
It has since been shown that, while more contagious, Omicron does not pose as much of a risk of hospitalisation and death as previous versions of the virus, and both the number of cases and the number of people in hospital with Covid in Scotland have fallen recently.
As a result, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced earlier this month that the rules would gradually be rolled back.
Indoor sport rules dropped
Last Monday, the restriction that said only up to 100 people at indoor standing events, up to 200 people at indoor seated events and up to 500 people, either seated or standing, could attend outdoor events was dropped.
And from today, January 24, a rule that meant amateur indoor contact sports were temporarily banned will also be lifted.
That rule included adult track events where the athletes “break” (leave their lanes to run as a pack) – leading to disbelief from legendary American sprinter Michael Johnson on Twitter.
— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) January 15, 2022
Pub and club Covid rules lifted
Nightclubs will be able to open for the first time in almost a month today.
While last August the venues were able to welcome in customers from a minute past midnight on the day of reopening, today the change comes into effect at 5am.
Table service is no longer required at places serving alcohol, and different groups will no longer need to have a one-metre distance between them. Those groups can also now be made up of more than three households.
However, businesses will still be asked to take down customers’ details when they come in, to assist with the test and trace system.
The advice for people to only meet in groups containing three households or fewer is also being scrapped.
What is not changing?
Two major aspects of the Scottish Government’s strategy to fight the spread of Covid – vaccine passports and self-isolation – will not be changing.
There had been suggestions that the passport system could be expanded, so it is required for access to a wider range of venues, but that plan did not materialise in Nicola Sturgeon’s statement to parliament last week.
The only change made to the scheme was that nightclubs will no longer be able to avoid checking Covid passports by putting out more tables.
The time required for self-isolation will not be cut any further at the moment, after it was recently reduced from ten days to seven.
In England, the period is five days – although Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith and the first minister have both said differences in technical definitions mean the two countries actually have the same self-isolation period.
South of the border the day isolation begins is counted as day zero, in Scotland it is counted as day one. Scots can also leave on day seven, while those in England must wait until the day after day five.