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Restrictions on travel and outdoor meetings ease in Scotland

Daniel Harkins, Craig Paton and Thomas Hornall, PA Scotland
·5-min read

Some coronavirus travel restrictions have been removed in Scotland and more people are now able to meet up outdoors.

The latest stage in lockdown easing was announced at an unscheduled Covid-19 briefing by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.

She said the continued decline in virus cases meant the restrictions can be eased earlier than planned.

Scots can now travel across local authority boundaries for outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise.

But they must follow the “stay local” order for other purposes such as non-essential shopping, and travel to some islands is not allowed.

Rules on gatherings have also been relaxed, with groups of up to six adults from six households now allowed to meet outdoors.

Children under 12 do not count towards the limit.

As the changes took effect, the latest Scottish Government coronavirus figures showed three deaths of Covid patients and 204 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours,

Friday’s data brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,640.

The daily test positivity rate is 1.4%, up from 1.2% on Thursday.

There are now 109 people in hospital in Scotland confirmed to have the virus, down six in 24 hours, and of these 18 patients are in intensive care – up two.

A total of 2,722,084 people north of the border have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 688,761 have had their second.

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Among those heading further afield on Friday was Andrew McVie, 27, from Glasgow, who told the PA news agency he was “super excited” to be visiting Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae for a cycling day trip for the first time in more than two years.

The clerical assistant said he has enjoyed returning to the scenic island – a short ferry ride from Largs on the North Ayrshire coast – after visiting as a child with his mother.

He said: “I try and go with a bike when I’m free on weekends and day trips, I really enjoy it and it’s dead handy to get to and dead easy to cycle around, you can do it in about two hours if you don’t stop.

“It’s why a lot of people like it, there’s great scenery and it’s a really nice, friendly, welcoming place and it’s a beautiful day.

“I’ve missed it so much not being able to go because of the travel restrictions, but I’ll still be taking precautions.

“And tomorrow I’m going through to Edinburgh with a couple of friends for the first time in over a year which will be good.”

The latest lockdown easing comes after barbers and hairdressers opened on April 5 and ahead of a more substantial unlocking of the country on April 26.

On that date, Scotland will move from Level 4 to Level 3 of the four-tier system of restrictions.

Cafes, restaurants and beer gardens can then reopen, along with shops, gyms, libraries and museums.

Travel between Scotland, England and Wales will be permitted and tourist accommodation can welcome back visitors.

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Other restrictions will ease in May and over the summer if Covid-19 continues to be suppressed.

Announcing the measures on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said: “We have always said we will keep plans under review and accelerate the lifting of restrictions if possible.

“The improved data does not allow us to throw caution to the wind – not if we are sensible – but it does give us a bit of limited headroom.

“So from the end of this week, you will be able to meet up with family and friends who live in different parts of the country.

“Many of those reunions will be long-awaited, and much anticipated. Please do remember that meetings at this stage must still be outdoors – you cannot socialise in people’s homes – and remember due to physical distancing, public transport capacity remains relatively limited.”

People in park
People enjoy the sun in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park (Douglas Barrie/PA)

But on Thursday, the First Minister told the PA news agency it was “positive” that the easing of travel restrictions had been brought forward, but cautioned Scots not to allow their guard to drop.

“Don’t go to crowded places, if you’re headed to a beach or a park and it’s crowded please come away again because crowded places are not safe places to be.

“Please stick to all of the rules and advice, remember your face covering, remember, as I say, to avoid crowded places, hand hygiene, keep your two metre distancing.”

The First Minister added: “As long as we all stick to the advice that’s still in place, this easing of restrictions tomorrow should be the first of many and I think, not least because of the vaccine programme, we can all afford to be just that bit more optimistic right now.”