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Scotland is to move to level zero of Covid restrictions on 19 July, but mandatory use of face coverings is to remain in place for "some time".

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the planned easing had to be modified due to the spread of the Delta variant.

The move to level zero means more people will be allowed to meet indoors and attend weddings and funerals.

However, limits on outdoor meetings are to be maintained, and the return of workers to offices is to be delayed.

Ms Sturgeon said "sensible precautions" had to be maintained while the vaccine programme continues.

She said she still hoped Scotland could move beyond level zero from 9 August – the point at which the government aimed to scrap most legal restrictions.

Ministers also plan remove the blanket requirement for close contacts of those who test positive to self-isolate, as long as they have had two doses of vaccine, at that point.

And fully-vaccinated people returning from amber list countries will not need to self-isolate as of Monday as long as they take a test after arrival.

  • Live: Latest from Nicola Sturgeon's Holyrood statement

However, the first minister told MSPs that mandatory precautions like the wearing of face coverings would remain in place "for some time".

Ms Sturgeon added: "We must stick to a cautious approach. We are easing restrictions next week, but we are not abandoning them.

"And even when we move beyond level zero, we will continue to require some baseline measures such as face coverings."

image captionNicola Sturgeon said the move would restore "yet more freedom" to Scots

Scotland has been hit by a record-breaking third wave of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, with the faster-spreading Delta variant putting pressure on health services.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs – who were recalled for a virtual session despite Holyrood being in recess – that the spike in infections had "levelled off", and that the vaccine programme was weakening the link between case number and severe illnesses.

She said "a gradual approach" to easing restrictions stood the best chance of being sustainable and of minimising loss of life.

The move to level zero means up to eight adults from four households can meet indoors at home, and up to 10 can meet in a pub or restaurant – with no need to pre-book a two-hour slot.

Up to 15 people from 15 households can meet outdoors, and up to 200 can attend weddings and funerals.

Plans have, however, been modified in light of high case numbers, with hospitality venues required to close at midnight.

And some physical distancing rules are to be maintained outdoors, with different groups of 15 required to stay at least 1m (3ft 3in) apart – meaning there may be limits on some outdoor events.

A "gradual" return to office working was due to be part of the move to level zero, but this has now been put back to 9 August.

Ms Sturgeon said the move was "not a complete and wholesale lifting of all restrictions", but it said it "does restore yet more freedom to all of us".

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  • EASING: What rules are changing, and when?
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