Move ‘beyond level zero’ confirmed

Shetland and the rest of Scotland is to move “beyond level zero” from Monday, the First Minister has confirmed.

The move means the end of most legal imposed restrictions, such as physical distancing requirements, the size of social gatherings and closing times for venues. 

Nicola Sturgeon said it had been made possible thanks to the steady decline in cases – which are now down two thirds on the recent peak in early July – and progress with the vaccine. 

She  said the change was “significant and hard earned”.

“The sacrifices everyone has made over the past year and a half can never be overstated. 

“However, while this move will restore a substantial degree of normality it’s important to be clear that it does not signal the end of this pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before Covid struck.

“Declaring freedom from or victory over this virus is, in my view, premature.”

“The harm the  virus can do, including through the impact of long Covid should not be underestimated and its ability to mutate may yet pose us real challenges.

“So even as we make this move care and caution will still be required. 

Ms Sturgeon outlined a number of mitigation measures that will continue. 

These include the requirement to wear face coverings in the same indoor settings as before, which Ms Sturgeon said was likely to be mandated in law for “some time to come”

Test and Protect will also continue – and with it the requirement for hospitality venues to collect contact details for customers. 

Travel restrictions will continue to be used “as and when necessary” to restrict the spread of outbreaks and protect against the importation of new variants. 

Where possible, home working is still advised. Ms Sturgeon said employers would be encouraged to consider for the longer term a hybrid model of home and office working, which she said may have benefits beyond supressing the virus. 

The government is also considering the limited use of Covid status certification for access to certain high risk venues in the future. 

Ms Sturgeon said an app to provide access to such certification for international travel was launching next month and it had potential applications for domestic settings, if appropriate. 

“However I want to assure parliament that we do not underestimate the ethical, equity and human rights issues associated with Covid status certification and we will keep members updated and consulted on our thinking on this issue,” she added.

One major change is to self-isolation requirements. 

While those who have symptoms of Covid or test positive for the virus, will still be required to self isolate, the automatic requirement for close contacts will not longer apply.

From Monday, adults who have received both doses of the vaccine, with the second jab given at least two weeks ago, will not have to self-isolate if they take a negative PCR test and show no symptoms. 

Similar changes are being proposed for under-17s, most of whom have not had access to the vaccine. 

In schools, the blanket isolation of whole classes will no longer routinely apply.  Instead Ms Sturgeon said targeted approach  will identify close contacts at highest risk of infection. 

Staff and over 12s will still be expected to wear face coverings in school.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The decisions I’m confirming  today reflect the fact that, principally due to vaccines, we are now in a different stage of this pandemic.

“Vaccination has weakened the link between case numbers and serious health harms.

“And that means it is neither appropriate or necessary and therefore not necessarily lawful to rely as heavily  as we did previously on blanket rules and regulations.”


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