The First Minister updated Holyrood today on the current coronavirus situation across Scotland.

Restrictions have been imposed to curb the spread of the Omicron variant since the Christmas period and following a loosening of restrictions last week on the number of attendees who could go to outdoor events, it was today expected that the remaining restrictions would also be lifted. 

Case numbers of new Covid infections have been dropping in recent weeks, with Nicola Sturgeon saying she was ‘cautiously optimistic’ that Scotland had ‘turned a corner’ in the fight against the virus.

Here is what Nicola Sturgeon said in her statement today.

Latest cases

Ms Sturgeon first updated parliament on the latest Covid cases in Scotland.

On Tuesday, 7,752 positive cases were reported yesterday through PCR and lateral flow tests. 

There were a total of 1,546 people in hospital with Covid, which is 21 fewer than yesterday.  

Of those in hospital, 59 people are in intensive care, including 17 who have been in ICU for more than 28 days - one more than yesterday. 

A further 31 deaths were reported, taking the total number of deaths under the daily definition to 10,093. 

Ms Sturgeon also noted a decline of cases from an average of almost 13,000 a day to just over 4,600 - 64% across all age groups.

Test positivity in PCR tests has also declined – from almost 30% in early January to under 20% now.  

She said Scotland is ‘now on the downward slope of this wave of cases’ however it is possible that we will see case numbers tick up again in the next couple of weeks due to schools returning following Christmas.

End to restrictions

Since Christmas, there have been limits on attendance at indoor public events; the requirement for one metre physical distancing between different groups in indoor public places; the requirement for table service in hospitality premises serving alcohol on the premises; and the closure of nightclubs. 

Ms Sturgeon said that the remaining measures are set to be lifted from Monday, January 24.

She added that the Scottish Government will also remove the guidance advising adults against non-professional indoor contact sports, and will also lift the guidance asking people to stick to a three household limit on indoor gatherings. 

Speaking about lifting the restrictions, the First Minister urged Scots to remain cautious in the coming weeks.

She said: “Even though from Monday we will no longer recommend a fixed upper limit on numbers of households, if we all continue to keep gatherings as small as our circumstances allow for now - until the end of this month - we will reduce our risks of infection. 

“We will continue to ask people to work from home whenever possible at this stage - and for employers to facilitate this. However, we will engage with business now about a return to a more hybrid approach from the start of February.

“Face coverings must still be worn in public indoor settings and on public transport.  

“Businesses and other organisations should continue to have regard to guidance, and take reasonable steps to minimise the spread of Covid and hospitality premises should continue to collect contact details for customers –which is important for the effective operation of Test & Protect.”

Vaccine passport scheme

In her update last week, Ms Sturgeon hinted at an extension of the vaccine passport scheme.

As of yesterday, guidance stipulates that organisers of events with 1000 or more in attendance should check the certification status of at least 50% of attendees or 1,000 people, whichever is higher. 

However, while discussions continued throughout the week on whether or not to extend the scheme, Ms Sturgeon announced that the Scottish Government would not extend the Covid certification scheme to other premises at this stage.

The reasons she gave for what she described as ‘undoubtedly the most difficult decision we faced this morning’, were the fact that new Covid cases are now rapidly falling and the current wave of Omicron is receding. 

Loophole addressed

The First Minister today also addressed a loophole in the guidance used by some nightclubs and late night venues to get around the vaccine passport scheme.

She said: “At the moment, nightclubs and other late night venues must apply the Covid certification scheme if they have, in use, a designated area for dancing.  

 “We intend to amend the definition here to provide greater clarity and prevent premises from avoiding certification simply by having tables on a dancefloor - and therefore claiming it is not a dancefloor - but still permitting dancing around the tables. 

“This change will take effect from Monday when late night venues are able to reopen.”

Self isolation period

Ms Sturgeon reminded Scots that you will be advised to self-isolate for 10 days if you test positive for Covid. However, if you don’t have a fever, and take two negative lateral flow tests - more than 24 hours apart - on day six and day seven, you can end self-isolation on day seven. 

She further addressed a UK government change to self-isolation in England which was 'publicised as allowing people to end self-isolation after day five'.  

The First Minister said: "This change simply brings England’s rules into line with those already in force in Scotland. 

"This is because in Scotland, we count the day of a positive test as day one of isolation - in England, this is counted as day zero. In addition, in England, you can end self-isolation only after day five. In Scotland, you can end it on day seven.  

"The period people are actually required to self isolate for - is in fact the same in Scotland and England. "