Nicola Sturgeon is today being urged to loosen coronavirus restrictions ahead of her update to MSPs in Holyrood.

Pressure has been growing on the First Minister to set out how Scotland can live with the coronavirus and loosen the restrictions.

Some business leaders said that tougher coronavirus rules failed to make a “meaningful difference” to infection levels and were causing “enormous damage” to some sectors.

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) spoke out as a poll of its members found that almost two thirds (65%) believed that the measures in place are no longer proportionate to the risk posed by Omicron.

READ MORE: What time is Nicola Sturgeon's update today and how to watch?

With more than two fifths warning they could have to cut staff if the restrictions are not eased, AGCC policy director Ryan Crighton demanded: “The First Minister must announce the end of these damaging restrictions this week.

“Not doing so places the very survival of many businesses at risk and jobs on the line.”

Restrictions reintroduced on Boxing Day forced nightclubs to close and pubs introduce table service and social distancing.

It also set limits on the number of people allowed to attend a standing indoor event at 100, a seated event at 200, and outdoor events at 500.

On Monday, ahead of her comments at Holyrood, Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, said the public “need to see some light at the end of the tunnel” and that it was “time for the First Minister to produce a timetable on the new strategic framework that she promised”.

“People want reassurance that restrictions won’t stay in force for a moment longer than absolutely necessary,” he said.

“After almost two years of sacrifice, the public need to see a bold timetable from the Scottish Government that will enable us to live safely with Covid.”

 

READ MORE: Covid LIVE: Nicola Sturgeon to give key lockdown update on extending restrictions

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, the party’s Health and Covid Recovery spokesperson, said it was a “chance to take a serious look at where we stand in suppressing this virus, and what the latest data is telling us”.

“We need to make sure any and all restrictions are rooted firmly in the evidence, and backed up by proper financial support.

“We also need a real plan to protect health and social care, which have been pushed to breaking point due to staffing shortages. Hospitals up and down the country are struggling to cope, and the lack of social care packages are leaving vulnerable people stranded without support.

“The First Minister must provide the real solutions we need to protect lives and livelihoods through this wave.”

Yesterday, Ms Sturgeon suggested her government is planning for a long-term shift away from the kind of restrictions Scots have faced since the start of the pandemic.

She said the country had to ask itself “what adaptations to pre-pandemic life” might be needed so the country could live with coronavirus, and hinted face masks may be used long into the future as part of this.

“Sometimes when you hear people talk about learning to live with Covid, what seems to be suggested is that one morning we’ll wake up and not have to worry about it anymore, and not have to do anything to try to contain and control it,” she told STV’s Scotland Tonight.

“That’s not what I mean when I say ‘learning to live with it’. Instead, we will have to ask ourselves what adaptations to pre-pandemic life – face coverings, for example – might be required in the longer term to enable us to live with it with far fewer protective measures.”

HeraldScotland:

A Scottish Government spokesman said that “restrictions will never be in place longer than absolutely necessary”.

“The next few weeks are going to be extremely challenging, with the risk of major incidents at health boards and businesses and public sector services under severe strain due to an increased number of staff off sick or isolating,” the spokesman said.

Also on Monday, concerns that the UK Government was about to end free lateral flow tests were described as a “red herring” by Prof Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, who said he had “no intelligence” that reports of ending the rapid tests were true.

The UK’s Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, denied there are plans to stop providing free lateral flow devices after a Sunday Times story suggested Prime Minister Boris Johnson would announce the change within weeks.

Ms Sturgeon warned that scrapping free lateral flows would be an “utterly wrongheaded” approach to dealing with Covid-19.

But, asked about the reports, Prof Leitch said the Scottish Government believes the UK Government’s denial and expects lateral flow tests will continue to be “freely available”.

The Scottish Government accesses lateral flow tests that are procured by the UK Government on behalf of all four nations, and it pays for them via funding arrangements as part of the UK-wide national testing programme.