The abolition of covid restrictions in Scotland can’t come soon enough, say leaders of Renfrewshire’s hard-hit hospitality sector.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that Covid passports, which were mandatory in nightclubs, will be pulled from Monday.
The need for wearing face masks in indoor settings will be removed from March 21 as the Scots premier announced on Tuesday that the nation will move away from legal controls in response to the Coronavirus pandemic and look instead to “vaccines, treatments and sensible public health behaviours”.
Leaders of Renfrewshire’s entertainment scene, which was hard hit by pandemic restrictions and mandatory closures, say the move is a welcome one.
Tommy McGrory, who runs Paisley’s Bungalow music venue, told the Express: “It all helps, it’s been a long time coming now but we are on our way back. We have no worries at the moment, unless something else comes round the corner.”
But he admitted it had been a tough time for hospitality through the pandemic, saying: “Up until recently, businesses were right up against it. I know a few that were going to stop about two months ago, they just had no money left and no spirit left either after what’s happened.”
However, he hopes that the latest news will be a boost to the industry, adding: “Things are starting to get back to normal for us and the numbers are creeping up. We are almost back to normal but some people are still nervous, it’s not 100 per cent yet but we are in a better position.”
Although masks will no longer be mandatory, Government guidance remains that residents are strongly advised to wear them on public transport and in busy environments such as shops.
Tommy’s hopes have been echoed by night-time entertainments impresario Tony Cochrane, who owns Paisley’s Vienna’s nightclub.
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He said: “This will be a lot better. We have our own opinion on the covid passports, it didn’t really help anything at all. It’s good that this has happened and they have finally seen sense. I think even by their own admission, covid passports didn’t help the numbers.
“The face masks also was a bizarre one, you didn’t need them if you were dancing or if you had a bottle of beer in your hand but as soon as you put the beer down you needed one. It will still take time for people and businesses to recover from this. We were in a situation where if you had a group of six guys and one didn’t have a covid passport, the rest wouldn’t come, we were losing groups of people.”
Tony, who owns a string of venues including Fat Sam’s in Dundee, added: “It will maybe make people a little bit more confident now as well because the fear factor was a big thing, it was OTT at times and it really screwed people up.”
Free covid testing will remain in Scotland at the moment while the First Minister seeks “clarity” from Westminster.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that all remaining covid restrictions, including the legal need to self-isolate for covid sufferers will end tomorrow – Thursday – in England.
Free covid tests will end there on April 1 as will the need for covid passports, except for international travel.
It has been revealed that pharmacy Boots have begun selling single covid tests for £5.99 in England and packs of four lateral flow tests will be available online for £17.
Packs of five will sell for £12 in-store from next month, it has been reported.
But the need to self-isolate if sufferers have symptoms of the virus remains in Scotland and Nicola Sturgeon used her briefing in Holyrood on Tuesday to hit out at the situation, saying: “I must express frustration at the UK Government’s position it is, of course, for the Prime Minister to decide how best to tackle covid in England.
“However, current funding arrangements means that while taxpayers in all four UK nations contribute to the costs, it is decisions taken for England that determine the resources available to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for testing and other covid measures.”
The fuming First Minister added: “As of now, we have no clarity on how much of the covid testing infrastructure the UK government intends to retain, no clarity on how much investment will support it in future and no clarity on whether the Treasury will provide additional resources or demand instead that funding is taken from elsewhere in the health budget.”
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