- 13 Jan 22
Nicola Sturgeon says protective measures, responsible actions by the general public and booster vaccines have had a positive impact on Covid cases.
The ban on large outdoor events will be lifted from Monday, January 16th as Scotland begins to “turn a corner” in its pandemic response, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
Restrictions on indoor events and hospitality will remain until at least January 24, the First Minister stated in a Covid-19 update this week. The news comes as 10,392 new cases were recorded on Tuesday, while 1,479 people were in hospital and 54 in intensive care.
While pressure remains on the NHS, the Covid situation in January has been better than predictions feared, Sturgeon told Holyrood. The Scottish Government is now working on a framework for “living with” Covid, which is set to be published in the coming weeks.
Sturgeon also warned MSPs that while the country was on a path to Covid becoming endemic, “that is not a shift that any government can just declare or wish into being”.
Ending the limit of 500 people at outdoor events that has been in place since St Stephens' Day will mean that football fans can return to stadiums when the Scottish Premiership’s winter break ends next week. Scotland’s Six Nations rugby matches can also be played in front of crowds at Murrayfield in February.
Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford is still holding firm on disallowing large crowds into football and rugby grounds. Drakeford said restrictions – which include a limit of 50 people meeting at outdoor events – remained necessary while the country was still “in the teeth of the Omicron storm”.
Back in Scotland, Sturgeon said she hoped to lift other restrictions in the coming weeks, including limits on attendances at live public events, the requirement for distancing between groups in public indoor places and the requirement for table service in hospitality venues serving alcohol.
She said her cabinet would continue to consider the possibility of extending the requirement for Covid passports, which are currently needed for nightclub entry, to other venues.
Government advice remained to wear face masks on public transport and in shops and hospitality settings, to work from home where possible, to avoid social contact with other households and to limit the number of households meeting indoors to three.
“We know that we cannot continually rely on restrictive measures to manage the virus. But equally we cannot be indifferent to the continued risks the virus poses to health and wellbeing. So we need to consider what adaptations we can make to manage these risks in a way that is much less disruptive to our lives and much less of a daily presence in our minds,” the first minister said.
In Ireland, there is increased optimism that Ireland's Covid-19 restrictions will begin to ease in February. Currently, there is an 8pm closing time for night-life, cinemas and hospitality venues.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has hinted that Government officials may decide later this month to ease restrictions, despite continuing record numbers of Covid-19 infections.
At a media briefing, Dr Holohan said it was “fair” to question why hospitality settings would not be reopened fully when higher rates of infection among younger people from the surge in Omicron infections were likely to lead to a high level of population immunity.
There is also some discontent about the return of most students to colleges in the next two weeks, as many have not yet received their booster vaccine doses.
Yesterday's changes bring an end to the five-day isolation period for fully vaccinated close contacts who do not have any Covid-19 symptoms. However, they will be advised to wear a medical or higher grade mask and to take regular antigen tests.
Close contacts who have not received a booster vaccine will have to restrict their movements for seven days.
Hopes are nevertheless rising that pubs will open fully once again next month, and perhaps even nightclubs.
When asked if she can give a guarantee that nightclubs can reopen next month, Minister Catherine Martin said she remains “hopeful for February” but added “we’ll have to see where we are.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin will appear on The Late Late Show tomorrow night to provide an update.