NICOLA Sturgeon today announced a "phased and careful" easing of coronavirus restrictions in Scotland.

Curbs were implemented before the new year on the number of people allowed to attend outdoor and indoor live events, social distancing in retail and hospitality environments, and table service was reintroduced in hospitality venues serving alcohol. 

The Omicron variant has caused cases to surge throughout January, at one point with the country seeing the highest number of recorded cases since the beginning of the pandemic, however while the virus continues to spread numbers of daily cases appear to be dropping.

Here is what we learned from Nicola Sturgeon’s latest update today.

Phased lifting of protective measures

The Scottish Government announced that protective measures announced before Christmas will begin to lift in a phased way from Monday.

Today it was confirmed that the attendance limit of 500 people at large-scale outdoor events will be lifted from Monday, January 17.

It means that, for example, 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.


Vaccine passport scheme changes

It was announced that the Covid certification scheme - or vaccine passport scheme - will remain in place for those and other events and venues previously covered, but with two changes.

Guidance will now stipulate that the organisers of large events of 1000 or more people should check the certification status of at least 50% of attendees, rather than the current 20%, or at least 1,000 people - whichever figure is higher.

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.

The NHS Scotland Covid status app for domestic use will be updated from Thursday so that its QR code includes evidence of booster vaccination.

It will also be possible to order updated paper and PDF copies of vaccination status, which are now valid for three months.

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.

Next Covid review confirmed

Ms Sturgeon announced that the next review of Covid data will take place on Tuesday, January 18.

Taking a phased approach to lifting restrictions, she said it was hoped that other protective measures on the limits of the number of people at indoor live events, table service in hospitality, and distancing in indoor public places would be lifted on January 24.

While the lifting of these measures is not currently confirmed, the First Minister said she would confirm any decisions on these changes in her statement next week.

She said: “As we do lift these other protective measures, it will be necessary to consider again if extending the scope of Covid certification to other venues might be a necessary protection.

“To be clear, we have not yet taken any decisions on this and it will require careful judgment. But I want to be clear to Parliament today that it is something we feel bound to give appropriate consideration to.”

'Get vaccinated and continue to follow guidance'

The First Minister highlighted the importance of Scots being vaccinated in her update today.

She said: “Scotland continues to be the most vaccinated part of the UK in terms of first, second, third and booster doses, but there are still too many eligible people not yet fully vaccinated.

“If you are one of them - and have no good reason not to be vaccinated - you are putting yourself and others at unnecessary risk.

“The latest available data, adjusted for age, suggests that someone not fully vaccinated is at least four times more likely to require hospital treatment than someone who has had a booster or third dose.

“So whatever age you are, getting boosted is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the worst impacts of Covid, and to reduce pressure on the NHS.

“And even though being fully vaccinated doesn’t completely eradicate our risk of getting Covid, it does reduce it. And that also reduces the risk of you passing it on to others - including those who may be more vulnerable to serious illness.

“If you are choosing without good reason not to be fully vaccinated, you are putting your own and other people’s lives at unnecessary risk.

|So if you haven’t been able to get your booster or third jag yet because you’ve been self-isolating, or because you tested positive in the last 28 days, or because you haven’t got round to it, please come forward now as soon as possible. And if you haven’t had a first or second dose yet, please do so without delay.

“Don’t run the risk of later regretting - or of leaving your family to regret - that you didn’t get the protection against illness and death that vaccination gives you.

“There is plenty of capacity in vaccination centres, and you will always be welcomed. So please go along. It is not too late.”

As well as getting vaccinated, she asked Scots to try to limit their social contact, test every time before meeting people socially and continue to limit the number of households you meet to three at most.

She urged Scots to continue to work from home where possible, wear a face covering on public transport, in shops, and when moving about in hospitality and to continue to follow advice on hygiene.

Latest cases in Scotland

On Tuesday 10,392 positive cases were reported over the previous 24 hours as a result of PCR tests – 27.7% of all tests carried out.

There are currently 1,479 people in hospital with Covid which is 47 more than yesterday, and 65 people are in intensive care, 11 of whom have been in intensive care for more than 28 days.

Sadly, a further 16 deaths have been reported, taking the total number of deaths under the daily definition to 9,950.

Over the past week, an average of just over 12,700 new cases a day were confirmed through PCR tests. However, this is down by 17% compared to the daily average in the preceding seven days.

On this measure, cases have fallen in the past week across all age groups, except the over 85s.