First Minister paves way for return to stadia and concerts from Monday in a boost to football and Six Nations rugby – as opposition leader credits Scottish people with 'learning to live with Covid'
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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that limits of 500 attending large outdoor events in Scotland will be lifted from Monday.
That paves the way for fans to attend Six Nations rugby matches in the country and premiership football matches when the winter break ends, as well as concerts.
There had been some calls for Scotland to play “home” games at English stadia rather than behind closed doors at Murrayfield for the Six Nations.
But organisers must check the vaccination status of at least half those that come into venues, currently it is just 20 per cent.
And to be considered fully vaccinated means not just being double jabbed but also having received a booster shot too.
Restrictions on indoor events and venues will remain in place until January 24, at which point the First Minister said she hoped they too can be lifted.
The Scottish Government imposed the restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the omicron variant, something Ms Sturgeon claimed was done successfully.
A limit of 100 people was placed on indoor standing events and 200 if people were seated – something that dealt a real blow to hospitality.
Pubs and restaurants had to bring back table service for alcohol and a one-metre distance rule while nightclubs had to close – or start operating like pubs.
However, the number of cases that was predicted fell dramatically short of government fears with 30,000 new cases daily instead of 50,000.
Conservative leader Douglas Ross said this was down to the Scottish people learning to live with the virus rather than the Scottish Government.
The latest Covid data from the government seems to support that view with average daily cases in Scotland reaching 2824 per one million population up to January 6.
That was higher than in England which saw 2615 per one million of the population, while having fewer Covid restrictions.
Ms Sturgeon said: "Our central projection last month was that new infections could reach 50,000 a day by early January. This has not so far materialised. Instead we estimate that the total number of new infections a day in early January - not just those recorded through positive PCR tests - may have been around 30,000.
“We will begin to lift the protective measures announced before Christmas from Monday - but in a phased way that will allow us to form in the days ahead a clearer picture of the trends in infections and associated impacts.
"The measures I am specifically referring to here are 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 on the premises.
"I can confirm today that the attendance limit of 500 at large-scale outdoor events will be lifted from Monday, 17 January.
"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.
"The Covid certification scheme will remain in place for those and other events and venues previously covered, but with two changes.
"Firstly, our guidance will now stipulate that the organisers of large events of 1000 or more people should check the certification status of at least 50 per cent of attendees, rather than the current 20 per cent, or at least 1000 people – whichever figure is higher.
"Secondly, from Monday the requirement to be ‘fully vaccinated’ for the purposes of Covid certification will include having a booster if the second dose was more than four months ago.
"The NHS Scotland Covid status app for domestic use will be updated from Thursday, so that its QR code includes evidence of booster vaccination.
“It will also be possible to order updated paper and PDF copies of vaccination status, which are now valid for three months.
"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.
"Cabinet will next review the data at our meeting a week today.
“I hope this will allow us to lift the other protective measures - limits on indoor live events, table service in hospitality and distancing in indoor public places - from 24 January."
Mr Ross said: “The latest data shows that we are in a far more positive position than the government was expecting.
“The projections in December have not come to pass. We may have already passed the peak of omicron.
“The success of Scotland and the UK’s vaccination scheme is clear.
“The actions of the general public have worked. People across Scotland got their booster. Took tests. Self-isolated when they needed to. They were cautious to protect their families’ health, and especially careful around the vulnerable.
“That’s why the data is more positive. It’s not because of government restrictions but because of people’s good sense.
“The people of Scotland got this right, not the government.
“The First Minister says we need to learn to live with Covid. But, after more than two years, people across Scotland have already learned to live with Covid.”