People in Scotland have been urged to remain cautious and vigilant about social contact and travel as Covid-19 restrictions were eased across much of the country.
Nearly all of mainland Scotland has moved down to level 2, while many islands are at level 1, the second lowest Scottish tier, allowing people to socialise indoors, visit pubs and hug loved ones for the first time in months.
Tighter restrictions remain in force in Moray and Glasgow after Covid-19 infection rates in both council areas climbed sharply in recent weeks. Both areas have been kept in level 3; Glasgow has experienced the toughest relative restrictions in Scotland continuously since September last year.
John Swinney, Scotland’s deputy first minister, said Glasgow, where the infection rate is 94.5 cases per 100,000 people, highlighted how volatile the situation could be.
“I think there is obviously grounds for a lot of optimism and the relaxation of restrictions enables people to get on with more and more of their lives,” he said on BBC Radio Scotland.
“But the situation that we face in Glasgow and in Moray illustrates just how fragile the progress that we are making is – so I suppose what I would say to members of the public is that we need to continue to tread carefully and cautiously and warily as we relax these restrictions.”
That message was repeated in a tweet from Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister. “This is a long-awaited moment but remember that the virus still poses a big threat, so please continue to be cautious and very careful,” she said.
While Glasgow’s infection rate continues to climb, Moray appears to have stabilised. Cases there have fallen for four consecutive days, to 58.4 per 100,000, according to the latest data.
The BBC reported the figures also show a steep rise in infections in East Renfrewshire, a largely prosperous council area adjoining Glasgow, to 75.4 per 100,000, with 72 positive cases there over the past seven days.
Swinney said the situation in Moray and other council areas was being very closely monitored but the regulations had to be applied consistently.
“The last thing we want to do is to have local authority areas going in and out of restrictions like a yo-yo. That’s the worst of all possible models for the business community and the wider community,” he said.
“Obviously we’re still facing quite an acute problem in Glasgow. We’ve got a great deal of testing infrastructure that’s been deployed.”
Under the lower tiers across much of Scotland, pubs can serve alcohol indoors until 10.30pm, with pre-booked slots; indoor events can resume with maximum audiences of 100; adult contact sports can restart outdoors; and universities and colleges will be able to return to a more blended model of learning.