Covid in Scotland: Shops to reopen as toughest restrictions eased

Covid in Scotland: Shops to reopen as toughest restrictions eased

Non-essential shops across much of western Scotland – including Glasgow – are to reopen for the first time in three weeks.

Retailers in the 11 council areas that had been been under the country’s toughest lockdown rules will be able to welcome customers from 06:00.

But pubs and restaurants will have to remain closed until Saturday.

It comes as the areas move from level four to level three in the country’s tiered system of Covid restrictions.

More than two million people had been subject to the level four restrictions since 20 November.

Three other council areas – Inverclyde, Falkirk and Angus – are moving down from level three to level two.

And both Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders will be downgraded from level two to level one.

There has been controversy over the decision to keep Edinburgh in level three despite the city having lower rates of the virus than some level two areas.

The level four restrictions were imposed in a bid to slow spiralling transmission rates across Glasgow and many of its surrounding areas.

All 11 areas have seen case numbers fall since then, but there have been warnings that they could increase again ahead of Christmas unless people continue to be careful and stick to the rules.

Strict travel restrictions will remain in place – so it will still be against the law for people outside of Glasgow to travel to the city to do their Christmas shopping, for example.

The changes to the tiers do not come into force until 18:00, meaning hospitality businesses – which must close at that time in level three areas – will not be able to welcome back customers for food and non-alcoholic drinks until Saturday.

But retailers that had been closed due to the level four restrictions have been given special permission to open their doors from 06:00 on Friday.

The easing of the restrictions will also allow “close contact” businesses such as hairdressers, barbers and beauticians to reopen, as well as visitor attractions, outdoor contact sports and training for children.

Gyms can also open for individual exercise, but indoor group exercise activities are not allowed – although there is an exemption for under-18s.

However, soft play, funfairs, snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls will remain closed and outdoor live events are banned.

The Scottish government has issued advice for shoppers, encouraging people to shop alone or in as small a group as possible.

It recommends using click-and-collect where possible, avoiding peak shopping hours, and staying away from crowded areas where physical distancing is difficult.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the decline in cases across the level four areas could “very easily go into reverse” unless people continued to abide by the rules.

She said this was particularly true of the ban on visiting other people’s houses – which remains in place across all of mainland Scotland.

The deaths of a further 50 people who had tested positive for the virus were recorded across Scotland on Thursday, bringing the total by that measure to 4,039.

But data released by the National Records of Scotland on Wednesday showed that a total of 5,868 people have died with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus since the pandemic began.

And a total of 103,305 people have now tested positive for the virus – 984 of whom are currently in hospital.

The latest data shows the R number – the average number of people infected by each person with Covid-19 – has fallen further below one, which experts say shows that the restrictions are having the desired effect.

The country has also started to vaccinate people with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine after an initial batch of 65,000 doses arrived at the weekend – with more due next week.

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