Social distancing in most venues and numerical limits on social gatherings will no longer be legal requirements from Monday as most remaining coronavirus restrictions are lifted in Scotland’s move to “beyond level zero”.

Rules on self-isolation will also change with only those testing positive for Covid-19 or displaying symptoms now having to isolate for 10 days, while people who are fully vaccinated and receive a negative PCR test result will no longer have to do so.

No business or venue will be legally required to stay closed after August 9 – but face coverings will still be mandatory in the same indoor settings as now such as shops and public transport, as well as by adults and over-12s in schools as the new term gets underway later this month.

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Announcing the changes at a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This has been hard-earned, and while this will restore a substantial degree of normality, it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it.

“Declaring freedom from this virus is premature. The harm it can do shouldn’t be underestimated and its ability to mutate may pose real challenges; care and caution will still be required.”

Large-scale events can make a “careful return” from next week, although special permission will still be required for those with more than 2000 attendees indoors and 5000 outdoors, while the Test and Protect operation will continue meaning customers will need to check in and give details at hospitality and other venues.

Remote working is still being recommended and employers will be asked to “consider a hybrid of home and office working” – and the First Minister added: “We will work with incident management teams, including localised measures and travel restrictions when necessary.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “The law will not stipulate physical distancing; but especially indoors, keeping distance and avoiding crowded places will continue to be advised.

“The decisions today reflect the fact that due to vaccination we’re in a different stage of this pandemic – it’s not necessary or lawful to rely as heavily as previously on blanket restrictions.”

She said of face coverings: “My expectation is that they’ll be mandated in law for some time to come”; while an app showing vaccination status is being developed and may in future be considered for “higher risk” venues.

The First Minister continued: “From August 9, close contacts [of positive cases] will no longer require automatically to isolate for 10 days; if they have been double-vaccinated for at least two weeks, have no symptoms and get a negative PCR test, self-isolation can then be ended.

“It will greatly reduce the amount of time people need to isolate; and we propose similar changes for those aged five to 17, which means that in schools, the blanket isolation of whole classes will no longer be routine.”

School staff and secondary pupils will have to continue wearing face coverings for the first six weeks of the new academic year, which “reflects the unique environment of schools”, with Ms Sturgeon adding: “I’m acutely aware many young people find this really difficult, but for now it’s an important protection for them and others.

“The past year and a half has been difficult and stressful for children and staff in education settings; the new term will still bring challenges but I hope also fewer disruptions and allow a much more normal learning environment.

Pupils and staff will be asked to take lateral flow tests twice per week, while carbon dioxide monitors will be compulsory in schools and childcare settings to monitor sufficient ventilation, with councils being given £10 million to fund the necessary work and equipment.

Ms Sturgeon told how the number of new daily Covid cases in Scotland has fallen by two-thirds since its recent peak at the start of last month.

She said: “Today’s developments are positive and possible only because of vaccination and prolonged sacrifices across nation.

“We all hope that the restrictions we lift on Monday will never again have to be reimposed but no-one can guarantee that; the virus is a threat and as we enter winter it may pose a threat again so the government will take action.

“We must continue to be careful, cautious and sensible even as restrictions lift, as it’s when we give the virus more opportunities to spread and we must remember basic actions to reduce the risk.”

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