COVID restrictions on large outdoor events in Scotland will be lifted from Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
Since Boxing Day there has been a limit of 500 people at outdoor events.
Lifting the cap will allow football fans to return to Scottish Premiership matches next week, while Six Nations fixtures at Murrayfield will go ahead with full attendance next month.
“I can confirm today that the attendance limit of 500 at large scale outdoor events will be lifted from Monday, 17 January,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“That means, for example, that 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.”
Ms Sturgeon said it was “reasonable and right to be hopeful” about the country’s latest COVID data, but added it was “prudent to remain careful and cautious”.
COVID certificates remain
The first minister said the COVID certification scheme will remain in place for these and other events and venues previously covered, but with two important changes:
- Organisers of large events of 1,000 or more people should check the certification status of at least 50% of attendees rather than the current 20%
- From Monday, the requirement to be fully vaccinated for the purposes of corporate certification will include having a booster if the second dose was more than four months ago
Ms Sturgeon added that it will also be possible to order updated paper and PDF copies of vaccination status, which are valid for three months.
And 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.
“I hope this will allow us to lift the other protective measures limits on indoor live events, table service and hospitality, and distancing in indoor public places from 24 January,” she said, adding she would confirm this in a statement next week.
She also said that the Scottish government would continue to consider if the vaccine passport scheme should be extended to include other venues.
Limiting social interaction
On current measures, Ms Sturgeon said that the requirement to face coverings in indoor public places and to work from home when possible “will remain in place for now”.
She said that while the Scottish government is not urging people to cut all social interaction due to mental health and wellbeing reasons, trying to limit it is a “sensible step at this stage”.
“We will be advising the general public to try to limit contact with people in other households and in particular to limit the number of households in any indoor gathering to a maximum of three.”
The measures were imposed by the Scottish government in a bid to curb the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Cases, deaths and hospitalisations
Ms Sturgeon announced that Scotland has recorded 10,392 new COVID cases and a further 16 deaths in the latest 24 hour period.
A total of 9,950 people in Scotland have died from COVID since the start of the pandemic.
The first minister also said that COVID hospital admissions could be starting to slow.
She told MSPs: “While the number of people in hospital with COVID has continued to increase over the past week – putting significant additional pressure on the NHS – there are signs that the rate of increase may be starting to slow down.
“The number increased from 594 two weeks ago to 1,147 this time last week- an increase of 553. Since then, it has risen further to 1,479 – an increase of 332.”
Turning a corner
Ms Sturgeon said that while the current COVID situation in Scotland “is undoubtedly serious”, it is perhaps less so than it might have been and there are also “some signs that we may be starting to turn a corner”.
But she said the country’s position is “still fragile and significant uncertainties remain”.