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Further Easing Of COVID Restrictions Confirmed For 17 May

Further easing of COVID restrictions confirmed for 17 May

Further easing of restrictions as most of mainland Scotland moves to Level 2, with a further relaxation on restrictions for hospitality, entertainment, education and sport.

The new rules, which come into effect on Monday 17th May, will apply to all mainland local authority areas with the exception of Moray, which is experiencing a high and increasing number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. As a result, it is “highly probable” that Moray will remain in Level 3 for a further period, with travel in and out of the area prohibited other than for permitted purposes. A final decision on this will be made at the end of this week.

The Scottish Government is working with Moray Council and Grampian Health Board to reduce case numbers, and will provide financial support for affected hospitality and leisure businesses if Level 3 restrictions do remain in place.

As the virus is now sufficiently under control in the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and remote Highland and Argyll islands, these communities are expected to move straight to Level 1.

From Monday next under Level 2 restrictions:

  • up to six people from three households will be able to meet in each other’s homes or gardens without physical distancing – this was the limit previously planned for Level 1 but has now been accelerated for areas in Level 2. People will be encouraged to use their judgment about close physical contact with others
  • up to six people from three households will be able to meet indoors in places such as pubs, cafes and restaurants, while up to eight people from eight households will be able to meet outdoors
  • pubs and restaurants will be able to serve alcohol indoors until 10:30pm in two-hour booked slots
  • venues including cinemas, theatres, concert halls, music venues, comedy clubs, amusement arcades, casinos, snooker halls and bingo halls will be able to reopen
  • events will resume with a maximum capacity of 100 people indoors, 250 outdoors where there is unrestricted standing and 500 for events with seating. Organisers will be allowed to apply to hold bigger events
  • outdoor contact sports and indoor group exercise classes will be able to restart
  • more than one person will be able to sing during religious services
  • amateur performing arts groups will be able to perform outdoors
  • colleges and universities will have more flexibility to resume in-person learning

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

The success of the vaccination programme, and continued high compliance with the various rules and restrictions, means that we have seen continued suppression of the virus in the last three weeks. As a result, the situation overall is a very positive one, and we are now in a position to relax more restrictions and restore much more normality to our everyday lives.

I know just how unwelcome the likelihood of a further period in Level 3 must be to people in Moray, and we are doing everything possible to ensure that any extension of Level 3 is for as short a period as possible. I would appeal to everyone living in the region to follow all the public health advice so that we can get the situation back under control and allow Moray to get back on a positive track just as quickly as possible.

It is almost eight months since most of us have been able to meet in each other’s homes. While I know all of us have been looking forward to being able to do that again, I would encourage everyone to please use judgement – close physical contact still carries risk, so if you have loved ones who are vulnerable for any reason, you should still be careful. And you should perhaps limit the overall number of people that you choose to have close physical contact with.    

We still intend to be highly cautious on international travel, given the risk of new variants, but we consider that the situation now allows us to begin a careful move away from blanket restrictions on non-essential travel. Everyone should think seriously about whether they really need to travel abroad this summer. I know for many people international travel is about family connections. But when it comes to holidays abroad, my advice continues to be to err on the side of caution and to staycation this summer.”

In responding to today’s announcement, the SLTA made clear that the licensed hospitality industry is “a long way from fully reopening” but conceded that today’s confirmation that bars, restaurants and cafés will be able to serve alcohol indoors until 10.30pm from May 17 is “very welcome”.

SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson commented:-

“Today’s announcement is, of course, very welcome, particularly since outlets that have been in a position to serve alcohol outdoors since the last relaxation of restrictions, on April 26, haven’t really benefited in the way they had hoped given the poor weather.

We are delighted for the island communities that can move down to Level 1 but it is disappointing – although completely understandable given the Covid situation – that it is ‘highly probable’ Moray will remain in Level 3. That First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that there will be additional financial support which will offer some comfort for businesses in Moray.”

Calling for a quick resolution to the uncertainty around physical distancing after Ms Sturgeon said that it would no longer be necessary in homes but remain in force in other settings, including pubs and restaurants, Mr Wilkinson said:-

“We need clarity on this as soon as possible as hospitality businesses operating small premises are simply not viable with physical distancing in place.

This reaffirms the stark reality of the challenges facing the licensed trade in that we’re a long way from fully reopening despite the positivity of today’s announcement. And bear in mind that the late-night hospitality industry, including nightclubs, remains in meltdown with no indication of when it can start to welcome back customers.

Many businesses will continue to fall further into debt and we have previously pointed out that a typical small hospitality business has taken on between £60,000 and £90,000 in bank debt and deferred bills as of February this year just to survive Covid, with that debt rising with every week of low or no income.”

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