Scots are being urged to do their Christmas shopping alone or online in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus over the festive season.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said those intending to head out to the shops with others should ensure the group is small as the deadly virus has “not gone away”.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 briefing on Friday, she said: “I cannot emphasise enough to you today that the very, very last thing we want to see is overcrowding in or around shops and shopping centres.”
Earlier in the day, 11 council areas were moved out of the toughest level of restrictions.
Non-essential retail businesses opened for the first time in three weeks as they moved from level four into level three.
Many opened their doors at 6am. The early start was allowed in a bid to help stores manage the flow of customers.
The First Minister urged shoppers to stick to their own council area and follow the travel restrictions put in place.
She also said to be “patient” if there are queues and to show “consideration” to shop staff and other customers.
Sturgeon said: “I would encourage you if you live in a level four area, and I know many of you will be keen to get back to the shops particularly this close to Christmas, but please consider whether you can wait a day or two to allow that flow to be managed.
“And if you do go to the shops and you find they or a shop that you are in or intending to go in is crowded, perhaps come away and go to another one, or come back later.
“And if you do go shopping, please try to go on your own or in a small group rather than in a large group.
“And, order online if you can. That way you can still get your shopping done and you’re still supporting the retail sector, but you are avoiding spaces that might be busy or crowded.”
The FM’s advice came as she announced a further 31 Covid-related deaths in Scotland and a rise of 1001 cases overnight.
Sturgeon urged everyone to continue sticking to the rules.
She said: “Please abide by the rules, that means – in particular – not visiting other people’s houses.
“I know how hard this is for all of us, but it remains the most effective way of trying to limit transmission.”