Western Isles will move to Level 3 in latest easing of lockdown.
People living in all parts of Scotland will be able to attend places of worship in gatherings of up to 50, where there is space for physical distancing, from Friday 26 March.
Updated guidance publishing on Friday will also allow people to travel between Level 4 areas to attend their usual place of worship following sustained progress suppressing Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Na h-Eileanan Siar will move to Level 3 at 6pm on Wednesday 24 March. All other council areas will remain at their current levels, with restrictions on non-essential travel across local authority boundaries.
The latest easing comes on the anniversary of Scotland first entering lockdown. The First Minister reflected on the loss of life over the past 12 months and thanked health and care workers, public service workers, teachers, local authorities, businesses, community groups and volunteers for their efforts to support the nation through the pandemic.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“On this National Day of Reflection, I know that many of us will be thinking about people we have lost during the last year, whatever the cause of their death. It is a natural human response when someone dies to gather with others, to mourn our loss and to celebrate their life. The fact that this shared ritual has not been possible has been an additional source of grief for many during this most difficult of years.
“The return of collective worship in greater numbers is an important change that I hope will be especially welcomed as we head towards important religious festivals over the next few weeks. That we are in a position for Na h-Eileanan Siar to move to Level 3 reflects their success in reducing transmission in recent weeks.
“I am grateful to everyone who has shown solidarity, compassion and love to one another by sticking to incredibly tough rules and restrictions. By following the rules, all of us have saved lives – we’ve helped keep the virus under control, and helped to create the situation we are now in, where we can now start to plan our route out of lockdown. We know too that the vaccination programme is now reducing deaths, and recent research also gives us confidence that vaccination will reduce transmission rates.
“To lift restrictions in the future, we still need to suppress the virus just now, so please stay within the rules in the coming weeks – stay at home for now, unless for an allowed reason; do not meet people from other households indoors; and follow the FACTS advice when you are out and about.”
COVID-19 updates will be less regular during the pre-election period, but the Scottish Government will still be monitoring the pandemic constantly, and taking and announcing decisions as needed.
The Scottish Government’s priority is to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible. There are six main tools for achieving this:
- the quickest practical roll-out of the vaccination programme
- the most effective use of Test and Protect
- applying proportionate protective measures (rules and guidance) to suppress transmission of the virus
- effective measures to manage the risk of importation of the virus
- supporting individuals, businesses and organisations to adhere to protective measures
- providing care and support to mitigate the harms of the crisis
The six conditions for safe easing set out by the World Health Organisation are:
- COVID-19 transmission is under control
- sufficient health systems and public health capabilities are in place
- outbreak risks are minimised in vulnerable settings
- workplace preventative measures are established
- risk of imported cases are managed
- communities are fully engaged