People living alone – such as couples who don’t live together, or single parents or grandparents – can form an “extended household” with one other household from Friday, Nicola Sturgeon announced.
She confirmed Scotland’s move to phase two of its plans to ease lockdown restrictions, but said it was too soon to implement a range of measures in the Scottish Government route map.
Members of an “extended household” would behave like a single household, the First Minister said – social distancing rules would not apply and it would be possible to stay overnight.
She said she hoped it would help tackle the problem of loneliness brought about by the Covid-19 lockdown.
Up to three households can meet outdoors per day, the First Minister added, in numbers of no more than eight.
At these outdoors meetings, you will be also able to go inside someone’s house to use their toilet, for example, although you should avoid touching surfaces and thoroughly clean any you do touch.
Scots are urged to stay within a roughly five-mile radius of their home for recreational purposes, although they can go further to visit family.
However, indoor meetings outside of people who form “extended households” will still not be permitted.
In addition, she said she could not give a date for the reopening of beer gardens, as had been hoped in phase two.
Sturgeon highlighted evidence the government is looking at which suggest pubs, restaurants and gyms can be hotspots of coronavirus transmission.
But she told STV News she understands the hospitality industry will be “disappointed” and stressed she wants to see beer gardens open “as quickly as possible”.
Outdoor hospitality will be reviewed again on July 2, a fortnight from now.
Speaking live on the STV News at Six, Sturgeon said: “There’s no easy or perfect way out of lockdown and we’ve still got to strike the right balance.
“This virus hasn’t gone away.
“We’ve made really good progress in suppressing it but we’ve got to be careful now because the last thing we want to do is go so fast that it comes back and we end up back at square one.
“So, the hospitality industry, I know in particular, will be disappointed.
“But we want to get beer gardens open as quickly as possible.”
She added: “The two things I wish I had right now are a crystal ball and a magic wand – I don’t have either of them.”
The First Minister said while she wanted normality to resume as fast as possible, her priority was to do it safely.
She said: “I would just urge people to, firstly, notwithstanding the understandable frustration, to be patient, because patience now will reap rewards and we’ll get back to more normality quicker.”
In other changes, from June 29, non-essential shops of any size will be able to reopen provided they have outdoor entrances and exits.
Outdoor markets, playgrounds and sports facilities can also open again from this date, along with attractions such as zoos and “garden attractions”, although visitors should not travel more than five miles from their homes and tickets should be bought in advance.
Updating MSPs on lockdown measures, the First Minister said there has been “clear and sustained” progress in tackling the virus.
But she added: “Our progress so far is because of lockdown.”
There have been two deaths of people with coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking Scotland’s death toll including presumed cases to 4086.
Just 11 new cases of the virus were reported in the last day, and the numbers in hospital with Covid fell by 36 overnight to 929, with 23 of those in intensive care.
The current estimate of total Covid-19 infections in Scotland at present is around 2900.
Sturgeon continued: “Though we are moving to phase two today, we are still being cautious and we are not going to do everything at once,” she said.
“We will take a staged approach to avoid bearing all of the risk at the same time.”
Those who are in at-risk “shielding” groups can also now go outdoors for exercise from today, as expected, Sturgeon said.
And from Friday, those in shielded groups can also take part in non-contact outdoor sports and activities like golf and tennis, and may also meet members of one other household outdoors.
The further relaxations for measures faced by people who are shielding were agreed following expert advice, the FM added.
Restrictions on moving house will also be dropped and weddings will be allowed to go ahead but only if they are outdoors and with “limited numbers”.
From Monday, face coverings will also be made mandatory on public transport – a policy that will also be considered for shops – and dentists can resume services.
Professional sport can start again behind closed doors, and places of worship can reopen for individual prayer.
University and college staff can return to campuses to prepare for their restart, planned for phase three.