Scotland's national clinical director has warned that the country is "not out of the woods yet" as Covid restrictions begin to ease.

From Monday, Scotland will see the biggest re-opening and relaxation of measures designed to keep the virus at bay for eight months - including physical distance rules which have prevented people from hugging loved ones or visiting their homes. 

But Professor Jason Leitch said that people should take care as the virus could still be in their households, and that some rules would still apply.

The relaxation of physical distance advice - which was to keep two metres apart from other people  - covers meet-ups in people's gardens and private homes, but not in public. 

This sparked confusion yesterday when it was announced by Nicola Sturgeon, and raised anomolies such as a father being able to hug his daughter at home, but not be able to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. 


People have been advised not to 'hug strangers on a night out'

Professor Leitch said: "We're not completely out of the woods. You don't have to look far afield across the world to see what this virus can do, and we still have some challenges even in our own country.

"People should't think this is a free-for-all [and that] all bets are off and we're back to normal. 

"We should absolutely take advantage of managing to see family, of going to the businesses that have been closed for so long. But do that cautiously. Do it within the safety measures that still exist."

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Under the new rules, up to six people from three households can socialise indoors in a private home or garden without physical distancing.

That means people can hug their loved ones again with Nicola Sturgeon advising people to use their judgment about contact.

The same number of up to six people from three households can also meet in public places such as pubs or restaurants – but maintaining the social distancing requirements.

Up to eight people from up to eight households can meet outdoors.

Pubs can open and sell alcohol indoors until 10.30pm in two-hour booked slots. Local licensing laws will apply outdoors.


Rules for hospitality are relaxing

Professor Leitch urged people to use their common sense when it came to physical distancing, and not to let down their guard.

He said: "We're not suggesting you hug for 20 minutes or you hug random strangers in the street at the end of a night out.

"It's about physical contact - getting back to hugging your parents, maybe as they arrive at your house, or maybe as they leave, but doing that in a safe way.

"This virus is still possibly in your household."

The medic explained that the rules were being relaxed because the rate of infection had dropped in most parts of Scotland, and that a decision had been made to ease restrictions gradually.

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He said: "You can't do everything everywhere. You simply can't lift the rock and let everything back. The advice was there was some space in the 'R' number for physical distance to be reduced, but there wasn't enough space for it to be abandonded.

"So where do you start? You could start in cinemas and allowing everybody back. You could start in family homes and letting people hug - and that's where we chose to start."