‘Start removing Covid restrictions from next month’, ministers told

The Scottish Tories have called for all restrictions to be lifted progressively, apart from the use of face masks in public places.

‘Start removing Covid restrictions from next month’, ministers told iStock

The Scottish Government has been urged to start removing all Covid restrictions – apart from the use of face masks in public places – from next month.

The call was made by the Scottish Conservatives, who argue the latest data on the virus makes such a move possible.

Douglas Ross, the party’s leader, has said that the current rules-based approach should be phased out in favour of public health advice that people can use to keep themselves safe.

On Monday, Covid restrictions across Scotland were eased, with capacity limits on major outside events lifted.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pointed to ‘encouraging signs’ that the Omicron wave “may be at or close to the peak”.

In light of Scottish Government projections indicating a decline in Covid cases and hospital occupancy from February, the Scottish Conservatives have now urged ministers to begin removing restrictions.

The party says that from January 31, there should be an end to all business restrictions and for the vaccine passport scheme to be scrapped.

Guidance on household mixing and social distancing should end, the party suggests, with face masks also no longer being used in schools.

The Scottish Conservatives also call for guidance on working from home to be phased out, as well as a gradual phasing out of self-isolation rules, with an aim to remove them entirely in the coming months.

They are also seeking an immediate end to the ban on indoor sports.

It comes ahead of a Covid update from the First Minister on Tuesday.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross outlined the importance of protecting mental health, physical health and jobs as well as stopping the spread of the virus.

“The Scottish Government’s own data shows that we are past the peak of Omicron. The latest evidence means we can now be far more optimistic,” he said.

“Protecting mental health, physical health and Scottish jobs is every bit as important as slowing the spread of Covid. Our economy and the long-term health of the public must not be held back any longer than necessary.

“We believe the balance must now tip in favour of trusting the Scottish public to do the right thing and keep themselves and their families safe, as they have done throughout this pandemic.”

Ross explained his party will be pushing the Scottish Government to examine its own data.

“People across Scotland have learned to live with Covid,” said the Scottish Conservative leader.

“The success of Scotland and the UK’s vaccine scheme means the public can now tackle Covid through their own actions, without the need for so many government restrictions.

“We will be pushing the SNP Government to examine their own data and progressively remove restrictions.

“The current rules-based approach should be phased out in favour of less restrictive public health advice.”

Scottish Greens health and social care spokesperson Gillian Mackay, however, branded the call from the Scottish Conservatives “reckless”.

“It seems that Douglas Ross has learned absolutely nothing during the past two years,” said the Green MSP.

“Ripping up restrictions at a time when our NHS is still under pressure would be reckless.

“I am pleased that we are in a position where restrictions can begin to be relaxed, but it is essential that the situation continues to be monitored daily.

“We have seen before how the circumstances can change quickly, so caution must be maintained.”

Speaking ahead of the Covid update, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton called for confirmation that Covid ID cards will not be further rolled out.

“While it is appropriate to act with caution, we have seen green shoots starting to show as the number of new cases falls,” said Cole-Hamilton.

“This week the First Minister has a clean-up operation to do, getting rid of out-of-date rules and putting in place a more logical and consistent set of guidance.

“At the moment you can go to the pub and to a football match but indoor sports are still banned. We know that these activities have huge physical and mental benefits so it’s time to bring that suspension to an end.

“Similarly we need to see confirmation that Covid ID cards are not going to be rolled out any further.

“They don’t tell you who is sick so they are next to useless at stopping the spread. Instead it’s time for a fresh push on getting people signed up for boosters by hitting the phones and setting people’s nerves at ease.”

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