By Rory Murphy
It was “taps aff” Friday and the sun was “splitting the cossies” as people flocked out of the house to visit the shops and the shores on the Banks of Loch Lomond.
Some coronavirus travel restrictions have been removed in Scotland from today and more people are now able to meet up outdoors.
The latest stage in lockdown easing was announced at an unscheduled Covid-19 briefing by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.
She said the continued decline in virus cases meant the restrictions can be eased earlier than planned.
Scots can now travel beyond council boundaries for outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise.
Rules on gatherings have also been relaxed, with groups of up to six adults from six households now allowed to meet outdoors.
Children under 12 do not count towards the limit.
As the changes took effect, the latest Scottish Government coronavirus figures showed three deaths of Covid patients and 204 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours,
The daily test positivity rate is 1.4%, up from 1.2% on Thursday.
There are now 109 people in hospital in Scotland confirmed to have the virus, down six in 24 hours, and of these 18 patients are in intensive care – up two.
A total of 2,722,084 people north of the border have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 688,761 have had their second.
The latest lockdown easing comes after barbers and hairdressers opened on April 5 and ahead of a more substantial unlocking of the country on April 26.
On that date, Scotland will move from level four to level three of the four-tier system of restrictions.
Cafes, restaurants and beer gardens can then reopen, along with shops, gyms, libraries and museums.
Travel between Scotland, England and Wales will be permitted and tourist accommodation can welcome back visitors.
Other restrictions will ease in May and over the summer if Covid-19 continues to be suppressed.
First Minister Sturgeon said: “We have always said we will keep plans under review and accelerate the lifting of restrictions if possible.
“The improved data does not allow us to throw caution to the wind – not if we are sensible – but it does give us a bit of limited headroom.
“So from the end of this week, you will be able to meet up with family and friends who live in different parts of the country.
“Many of those reunions will be long-awaited, and much anticipated. Please do remember that meetings at this stage must still be outdoors – you cannot socialise in people’s homes – and remember due to physical distancing, public transport capacity remains relatively limited.”
But yesterday (Thursday) she told the PA news agency it was “positive” that the easing of travel restrictions had been brought forward, but cautioned Scots not to allow their guard to drop.
“Don’t go to crowded places, if you’re headed to a beach or a park and it’s crowded please come away again because crowded places are not safe places to be.
“Please stick to all of the rules and advice, remember your face covering, remember, as I say, to avoid crowded places, hand hygiene, keep your two metre distancing.”
The First Minister added: “As long as we all stick to the advice that’s still in place, this easing of restrictions tomorrow should be the first of many and I think, not least because of the vaccine programme, we can all afford to be just that bit more optimistic right now.”
Grand weather for a day out on Loch Lomond. Picture by Richard Dickson