NICOLA Sturgeon has confirmed new lockdown easing measures including allowing Scots to meet other households indoors from tomorrow and reopening pubs and restaurants from Wednesday.

The First Minister said trends show Covid-19 has now been suppressed to a low level and today's announcement "marks the most significant milestone yet".

But she warned Scots to keep their guard and avoid crowded places "literally like the plague". 

Ms Sturgeon said pubs and restaurants will be granted an exemption from the two-metre social distancing rule, and will reopen on July 15. Shops and public transport will also be exempted from tomorrow.

However this is dependent on mitigation measures such as "clear information for customers that they are entering a one-metre zone, revised seating plans, and improved ventilation". 

Meanwhile, Scots can meet up to four other households outdoors from tomorrow, up to 15 people at a time. 

Up to three households can meet indoors, in groups of a maximum of eight people. This includes overnight stays, although physical distancing remains in place.

The First Minister said Scots can meet up to four other households per day in total, although under 18s can meet as many as they want. 

Couples who do not live together no longer need to stay physically distant from each other from tomorrow, indoors or outdoors.

Children under 11 no longer have to physically distance.

Face coverings will be mandatory in shops as well as public transport from tomorrow, with Ms Sturgeon insisting it should become as "automatic as putting on a seatbelt in a car".

The tourism sector, including all holiday accommodation and hotels, can reopen from July 15, while shopping centres will fully reopen two days earlier.

Museums, galleries, libraries and cinemas can all reopen on July 15 subject to physical distancing and other measures, as well hairdressers and barbers.

From Monday, organised outdoor contact sports and physical activity can resume for children and young people, subject to guidance.

And on Wednesday, places of worship will reopen earlier than expected for communal prayer, congregational services and contemplation, although numbers will be strictly limited.

In addition, restrictions on funerals, weddings and civil partnerships will be eased. 

However, numbers will be even more limited than for worship generally and physical distancing will be required. The change also does not include wakes or receptions.

Ms Sturgeon said the "prevalence of the virus in Scotland is at this stage several times lower than it is across the UK as a whole".

She said: "Three weeks ago, we estimated that around 2,900 people were infectious with the virus. 

"Our estimate for last week is that 1,000 people in Scotland were infectious.

Announcing the lockdown easing in Holyrood, the First Minister said this is "undoubtedly a time for cautious hope". 

She said: "Scotland has made great progress in tackling Covid.

"We should all savour our first indoor meetings and meals with friends; our first pint in a pub or catch up over coffee.

"Many of us are looking forward to our first non-amateur haircut in months.

"And there will be other milestones and reunions that we will enjoy over the next few weeks. They have been hard earned by all of us.

"But I have a duty to be crystal clear with the country that this is also a time of real danger.

"Next week represents the most substantial easing of lockdown so far.

"And we know that meeting people indoors poses far greater risks than going to a park or to someone’s garden.

"We must all be aware of that in everything we do.

"We must remember that Covid – although currently at very low levels in Scotland – is still out there."

She added: "It is only because of our collective action - our love for and solidarity with each other - that we have made so much progress.

"Now is not the time to drop our guard.

"Let’s all keep doing the right things - to keep ourselves safe, protect others and save lives."

Ms Sturgeon said eliminating Covid-19 "as far as possible now - ahead of the almost inevitable challenges we will face come winter - remains our objective". 

Personal retail services which have not yet reopened – for example beauticians and nail salons – will be able to reopen from July 22.

There is still no date for the reopening of indoor gyms, music venues, theatres and non-essential offices.