COUPLES who are shielding will be allowed to meet without following social distancing rules from tomorrow, the First Minister has said.

Announcing changes for those in the shielding category, Nicola Sturgeon said she thought the news would be “particularly welcome”.

People who have been identified as at high-risk of serious illness if they contract coronavirus have been following further restrictions throughout the pandemic. They have been advised to stay at home as much as possible and keep outside interactions to a minimum to protect themselves from the illness.

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But today the First Minister said due to the low, decreasing level of Covid-19 in Scotland, the Government can announce further changes to the guidance for shielding people.

From tomorrow those who are shielding will be able to stay in holiday accommodation, visit outdoor markets and public gardens, and see their partners without needing to stay two metres apart.

She also said the Scottish Government anticipates that the shielding programme will end on July 31.

Sturgeon told the daily briefing: “We advise that you can, if you wish, stay in any holiday accommodation, including hotels and bed and breakfast.

"You can also visit outdoor markets and public gardens. And in a change that I hope will be particularly welcome, non-cohabiting couples can meet without physical distancing, even if one or both of you is shielding and even if neither of you lives on your own."

"Now, we hope to be able to pause the need for shielding altogether at the end of this month - although even if we do that, we will still encourage those in the shielding group to take extra care in things like physical distancing and hygiene.

"And I know that the prospect of returning to something more like your normal lives will be welcome for many of you, if not all of you, but I appreciate that it is also likely to be quite daunting."

"So the Scottish Government will provide more information for you nearer the time and will do everything we can to support you in this transition."

Sturgeon added that the Economy Secretary has asked UK ministers to ensure financial support for those shielding who may not be able to return to work, or work from home, continues.

She went on: "And if you are an employer, please be sensitive to the concerns of any employees who may be shielding. If it turns out we are able to confirm next week that shielding will be paused from 31st July, please reach out to people who might be going back to work.

"Have honest conversations about how you can support them. Try to think creatively about how you can make your workplace safer for them.

"As I've said before, the relaxation of shielding measures is good news, but it will be prompting some understandable stress and anxiety. All of us can take, sometimes, small steps that might make a big difference to people who are shielding."