Restrictions on crowds at outdoor sporting events in Scotland will be lifted on January 17, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
The news means football and rugby supporters can return to stadia from next Monday onwards having effectively been closed out since Boxing Day, after a limit of 500 was imposed three weeks ago in a bid to deal with a surge of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
In a move driven by the Government’s “cautious optimism” over the way things have evolved since the measures were first put in place, Sturgeon gave the green light for football clubs to open their grounds to full capacity when the cinch Premiership campaign resumes next week following a three-week winter break.
In addition, Murrayfield will be able to hold a full house when the Scotland rugby team host England and France in the Six Nations.
Speaking in her statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Sturgeon said: “I can confirm today that the attendance limit of 500 at large-scale outdoor events will be lifted from Monday, January 17.
“That means, for example, that spectators will be permitted again at major outdoor sporting events, including football fixtures scheduled for early next week and the forthcoming Six Nations rugby matches.”
It was also confirmed that Covid certification will now only be valid with a booster, and that clubs are obliged to check the status of at least 50 per cent of attendees.
Sturgeon said: “The Covid certification scheme will remain in place for these (cinch Premiership and Six Nations matches) and other events and venues previously covered, but with two important changes.
“Firstly, our guidance will now stipulate that the organisers of large events of 1000 or more people should check the certification status of at least 50 per cent of attendees, rather than the current 20 per cent, or at least 1000 people, whichever figure is highest.
“And secondly, from Monday, the requirement to be fully vaccinated for the purposes of Covid certification will include having a booster if the second dose was more than four months ago.
“It will still be possible to gain admission to events and venues covered by the certification scheme by providing proof of a recent negative lateral flow test.”
Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster welcomed the lifting of restrictions, saying: “Today’s announcement is a sensible decision that will be welcomed by clubs and hundreds of thousands of fans across the country.
“Football is not the same without supporters, and I know how much it will mean to them to be back in stadiums watching matches again.
“This news will also be a real financial boost for our 42 member clubs, who have faced an incredibly challenging set of circumstances since the pandemic began.”
Sturgeon also revealed she hopes to give indoor sporting events with spectators the green light to resume from January 24.