Scotland has announced that it will lift the COVID-19 restrictions that were put in place during the Christmas holidays from next Monday.
In a speech to the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the additional restrictions imposed in late December could be lifted as the country has “turned the corner” on the Omicron wave.
“Given the improving situation... I can confirm today that all of these measures will be lifted from next Monday, 24 January,” she said, providing an exact date.
After the restrictions are lifted, Scottish citizens will once again be able to return to public venues, such as pubs and nightclubs, which were previously closed due to the restrictions, the Telegraph reported.
Table service in restaurants will also make a return, and attendance limits on indoor events will also be lifted.
Despite lifting most of the restrictions, the Scottish First Minister said that most people will still be asked to work from home and wear face coverings in public indoor settings and on public transport.
Sturgeon said that data suggests that the Omicron variant peaked in the first week of January, and that “we are now on the downward slope of this wave of cases.”
Coronavirus cases are down from 36,526 new cases on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of last week to 20,268 cases reported this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, according to The Guardian.
“It is important to stress this point: notwithstanding the improving situation, the level of COVID infection circulating in the community is still high. So to minimize the risk of us getting the virus it would be sensible for all of us to remain cautious in our social interactions at this stage,” Sturgeon explained.
“We will continue to ask people to work from home whenever possible at this stage — and for employers to facilitate this,” she added. “However, we will engage with businesses now about a return to a more hybrid approach from the start of February.”
Prior to Sturgeon’s statement, Scottish opposition parties and business groups called on the government to ease restrictions as quickly as possible due to its negative impact on the economy. The Scottish Hospitality Group identified Scottish government research that suggested the number of people visiting restaurants and bars had fallen drastically.
Scottish Conservative MSP Dr. Sandesh Gulhane, who is the shadow cabinet secretary for health, said that Sturgeon’s announcement is “a sea change in the government’s policy, starting to shift from a rules-based approach more towards trusting the Scottish public.”
Gulhane also called for the proposed vaccine passport scheme to be scrapped in its entirety.
In addition to Scotland’s plans to lift restrictions, neighbouring England will also scale back restrictions as cases and hospitalizations appeared to have peaked, Sajid Javid, Britain’s secretary of state for health and social care, said.
Javid said that he was optimistic that the restrictions would be scaled back, coupled with a strengthening of Britain’s jobs market.