End in sight for Covid travel bans
FM's statement gives runners 'welcome reassurance that brighter days are ahead of us'
Yesterday’s statement (16 March) by the First Minister brought good news for runners whose trips to neighbouring hills, forests and trails have been curtailed by the current crop of travel restrictions.
With more than 40% of the adult population now vaccinated, the First Minister announced that the current ‘stay at home’ rule will be lifted on 2 April. The order will be replaced, she hopes ‘for no more than three weeks’, by guidance to ‘stay local’ – that is, within your local authority area – unless travelling for an essential purpose.
As exercise is currently regarded as an ‘essential’ reason to leave your home, it would appear that from early April, runners will be able to enjoy roads, hills and trails further afield once again.
Last Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon announced the lifting of some restrictions on outdoor exercise, paving the way for club and group sessions – up to a limit of 15 members – to start up again just before the weekend.
From 26 April, all parts of Scotland currently in Level 4 – essentially Mainland Scotland – will move down to a modified Level 3 and travel restrictions within the country removed. But before you plan a late April running trip to Mull or another island currently in Level 3, it’s worth noting that those communities will be consulted on what they feel will be the best way to protect themselves from new cases being imported from the Mainland. As a result, some of the Level 3 areas may not choose to move to Level 2, and some travel restrictions may remain.
But while you may not be able to travel to some of Scotland's islands, restrictions on journeys between Scotland and other parts of the UK should be lifted, if not on 26 April, then as soon as possible afterwards.
For those runners missing their strength and conditioning workouts, it was confirmed that indoor gyms will open for individual exercise on 26 April. Adult outdoor contact sport and indoor group exercise will resume three weeks later, on 17 May. On the same date, small-scale outdoor and indoor events will also restart. There's no word as to whether those events include running races of any size.
If the vaccination programme continues to be a success and cases continue to drop, the First Minister hopes that Scotland will move to Level 1 in early June, and Level 0 at the end of the same month.
However, she would not be drawn on an exact date when life would return to normal. She said: “For me to set out a precise date for all of that right now would involve plucking it out of thin air - and I’d be doing it to make my life easier, not yours. I am not going to do that.
“But I do believe that over the coming weeks – as more and more adults are vaccinated – it will be possible to set a firmer date by which many of these normal things [like going to sporting events] will be possible.
“And I am optimistic that this date will be over the summer.”
Perhaps there's hope for those autumn races yet.