Scots heading to shops and supermarkets this weekend could be forgiven for experiencing a sense of deja vu, as restrictions implemented at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 are reintroduced.
As part of measures to help curb the spread of the new Omicron variant, ministers are bringing back guidance on social distancing and the management of queues in shops.
It comes as stores across Scotland prepare for the weekend before Christmas, traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for retailers.
So what are the key changes coming into effect at midnight on Friday?
The Scottish Government’s new guidance for workplaces and businesses is available to view here and the key points at-a-glance below:
Retailers – such as shops and supermarkets – are being encouraged to use tannoy systems, signage, floor markings and queue management systems to help people keep a safe distance, particularly at potential pinch-points of congregation like tills.
If not already installed, screens will be used to create a physical barrier between people at tills and self-service checkouts.
People should expect longer queues as measures are introduced to control capacity limits and the flow of customers entering/exiting premises.
The mandatory collection of customer’s contact details remain in place for hospitality venues – including nightclubs and adult entertainment venues.
Table service is strongly encouraged by the Scottish Government where possible, or alternatively a takeaway service may be provided. Bar service, however, remains permitted in law.
Vaccine passports or a negative lateral flow test are required for entry to certain licensed premises. The scheme applies to clubs, defined as late night premises with music and a dancefloor, that serve alcohol at any point between midnight and 5am.
The new guidance says employees and employers should strengthen compliance with current protection measures and make an extra effort to do so from now through the festive period and beyond.
Premises are being urged to consider adopting queuing management systems including one metre social distancing at bar areas.
Other key points for managing risk include: Capacity limits, the use of screens and one-way systems.
lt remains a legal requirement to wear face coverings in indoor settings subject to exemptions.
The guidance states businesses should implement measures that limit close face-to-face interaction, such as supporting working from home.
Office adjustments may also include protective measures such as signage, screens and other mitigations.
During the festive period, the Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland recommends that Christmas parties are postponed. If they do go ahead, people should test before attending.
Anyone whose job involves entering other people’s homes should undertake a lateral flow test (LFD) on the day that work is being carried out, prior to attendance.
Householders should also undertake a LFD test on the day, prior to the visit. Workers should try to keep a reasonable distance from individuals in the household.
WHAT IS THE REACTION FROM RETAILERS?
As the changes come in, both the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) are urging people to be patient.
SRC director David Lonsdale said: “Retailers and store colleagues are working around the clock to maintain a safe shopping experience so customers can have the confidence to go to their favourite shops.”
He said shoppers would “see differences to their usual shopping routine” when the measures are reintroduced from Friday.
He added: “If we all wear a face covering, adhere to physical distancing and Government advice, and show consideration to those around us, including shop staff who are doing a brilliant job in challenging circumstances, then everyone will be better off.
“This way we can all enjoy shopping over the festive period and support local jobs and the vibrancy of our retail destinations.”
SGF head of policy John Lee said: “Convenience stores have maintained high standards of hygiene and safety throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so
“However, the latest Scottish Government announcement is going to put a huge amount of pressure back on some shop workers – and there may be a need for queuing to control numbers in some stores to ensure people can move around them smoothly and safely.
“Unfortunately this is having to happen at the busiest time of the year for retail and we understand that some people will be unhappy.
“We are, though, asking shoppers to be patient and not to take their frustrations out on shop staff, who are key workers trying their best to serve their communities while keeping people safe.
“We have sadly seen some shoppers behave unacceptably all too many times during the pandemic. But it is now a crime to abuse a retail worker and we encourage store owners across the country to take a zero-tolerance stance against all crime.
“By showing patience towards retail workers – perhaps allowing some extra time for your shopping – you can help them to help you. The measures in place are there to protect us all and they are simply doing their job.”