Covid-19 News

Following the First Minister’s announcement earlier this week that, in light of the escalating cases of the Omicron COVID variant, businesses are now required to take practicable measures to minimise the risk of transmission, The Scottish Government has today (Thursday, 16 December) published updated guidance for the tourism and hospitality industries.

Including procedures for staff and customer safety, and an operations checklist, the updated tourism and hospitality guidance can be accessed via this link.

This sector guidance should be used in conjunction with the Scottish Government’s latest general guidance for safer workplaces, which is available here.

As we have already highlighted to ASVA members, no new mandatory actions are required to be taken by businesses, however they are advised to take any available steps to ensure visitor and staff safety, such as:

  • Queue management
  • Ordering systems
  • One way systems
  • Table service in cafes/restaurants
  • Use of protective screens
  • Capacity management

We know, and have communicated to the Scottish Government, that attractions are already operating with excellent COVID-mitigating measures in place, but we would urge ASVA members to take any additional steps they think most necessary to reassure visitors and staff.

We will continue to update members should the guidance change.

In her latest COVID statement to the Scottish Parliament today, Tuesday 14 December, the First Minister announced that further protective measures are necessary to slow the spread of the Omicron variant whilst the pace of the booster vaccination programme is accelerated.

The First Minister advised that people are strongly recommended to limit, as far as possible, the number of people outside their own households that they interact with. She also stated that the Scottish Government intends to amend regulations to put a legal requirement on those running businesses or providing services to ‘take measures which are reasonably practicable to minimise the risk of transmission’, such as steps to control customer flow.

Ms Sturgeon said that guidance will be issued this week to make clear what that means for different sectors. Following her announcement, ASVA reached out to the Scottish Government to seek clarity for Scotland’s attractions sector. 

With regards to what the ‘protective measures’ are likely to be, ASVA’s understanding is that it is unlikely there will be mandated regulations such as physical distancing or one-way systems. Instead, the requirement will simply be that businesses must take appropriate action to limit crowds and control queuing.  We are very confident that most of our attraction members are already operating with COVID protocols that will satisfy this requirement.

Our CEO, Gordon Morrison said: ‘’I continue to emphasise to the Scottish Government our sector’s commitment to minimising transmission risks and the exemplary standards it has adhered to throughout the pandemic. In addition, I’ve highlighted the fact that the vast majority of attractions have voluntarily retained many COVID-mitigating protocols, above and beyond current requirements, to ensure the safety of visitors and staff.  And whilst our understanding is that the ‘practical measures’ the First Minister referred to are likely to be measures already widely in place across our sector, I have noted my concerns that if certain requirements – most particularly 2-metre physical distancing –were to be mandated once more, there would be serious economic consequences for visitor attractions.”

The First Minister also announced today that £100 million to support the hospitality sector will be made available. Whilst this is welcome news, there has not yet been an indication of how this will be distributed. ASVA has therefore sought clarification on whether attractions with hospitality elements will be included – as we certainly believe they should be.

Gordon continued: “We have been advocating strongly for financial support for our sector and I have been at pains to ensure Government officials are aware that not only have attractions not seen any kind of recovery this year – with visitor numbers down by 65.6% compared to 2019 – many attractions, just like hospitality venues, are reporting cancellations of Christmas events. They are also now seeing a further downturn in visitor numbers and significantly reduced trade in their cafes and restaurants. Sadly too, whilst the Days Out campaign had been expected to drive visitation, this has not had the benefits anticipated due to the public’s concerns about rising COVID cases.

“We will keep our sector updated as soon as we have further clarity and guidance. In the meantime, I’d like to reassure our members that we will continue to advocate on your behalf and do our best to ensure our sector receives the support it needs to navigate through the current stage of the pandemic.”

ASVA has received confirmation from the Scottish Government that certain types of visitor attraction are eligible for the Coronavirus Business Ventilation Fund, despite attractions not be specifically listed on the list of eligible sectors.

To determine eligibility, interested businesses are required to complete an online self-assessment form. Once completed a recommendation will be given on whether a need to improve ventilation has been identified. If a need has been identified, the business will be invited to apply for funding. As a reminder, successful businesses can claim up to £2,500 per eligible premises to recover the costs of carrying out work to improve ventilation and air quality. 

For more details of the fund, including full criteria, please click here.

We are once again asking all visitor attraction operators across Scotland to take part in our latest survey. This is vital to enable us to determine the current status of our sector, with a particular focus on the ongoing impact of the pandemic on businesses and their recovery prospects.

As with our previous surveys, the Moffat Centre for Travel & Tourism Development at Glasgow Caledonian University is conducting this important study. The results will be shared with you, our members, so you are kept updated on how the sector is faring, and we will also inform our key stakeholders of the findings. Importantly, they will also be used to shape our ongoing lobbying activities with the Scottish and UK Governments.

ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: “I’m asking all our attraction operators to take part in the survey, which is very straightforward and will only take 10 minutes at most to complete. That single simple and quick action can really make a huge difference. It’s essential that we receive the most up-to-date information on business performance, recovery prospects and confidence levels within the sector so we have a definitive status update on how attractions are coping and what their biggest challenges and concerns are.

“The more responses we get, the stronger our voice will be, and the better our chances will be of being listened to. That’s crucial to our efforts to get financial support for Scottish attractions. So please do help us to help you by having your say in this latest survey. We know there are misconceptions that tourism is ‘back on track’ now that restrictions have been lifted and it’s absolutely essential that we have as much data as possible to show the real picture and demonstrate what further action will be required to ensure a full recovery for the sector in the months ahead.”

Members can be assured that no sensitive material for individual attractions will be published as part of the survey results. In addition, if any attraction would prefer to remain anonymous in the results, that option can be chosen and indicated at the end of the survey. (Please note, you do not have to have a Moffat Centre i.d. number to complete the survey, the only essential information that is required is your attraction name.)

Please complete the survey here. It will close on Wednesday, 15 September at 5pm. Thank you for your co-operation.

Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy Kate Forbes has urged all sectors of Scotland’s economy to remain focused on current COVID guidance. Referring to the current high rates of infection throughout the country, Ms Forbes stressed the importance of businesses continuing to adhere to ‘baseline measures and good practice’ as part of the collective national efforts to supress coronavirus.

In her statement on Friday 27 August, she said: “Businesses have shown great leadership throughout the pandemic in encouraging adherence with mitigations and we would ask that this continues at this fragile time. I would urge customers to follow the guidance too to support the businesses they use.”

Ms Forbes encouraged anyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so, and counselled businesses to continue to communicate and work with their employees to ensure safety measures are maintained. The essential baseline protocols we must all continue to implement to help reduce the risk of outbreaks and allow all sectors to stay open are:

  • wear face coverings (legally required in most indoor public places, including indoor attractions, workplaces and on public transport)
  • support staff to self-isolate if they are asked to do so by the NHS
  • regular testing of staff to help break the chains of transmission
  • continue to work with staff to support home working where viable
  • keep workplaces as well ventilated as possible.

The Scottish Government’s tourism and hospitality industries’ good practice guide (with which ASVA members should of course, be already very familiar) can be accessed here.

In addition to her cautionary words highlighting the vital importance, whilst cases rise, of continued vigilance and compliance – to minimise the risk of restrictions being reintroduced – Ms Forbes applauded businesses for the considerable changes and sacrifices they have made throughout the pandemic to protect public health. She said: “I’m incredibly grateful to the business community and would like to thank everyone who has spent time and effort to make their businesses as safe as possible for customers and staff.”

The full statement made by Ms Forbes is available here.

Organisations with ten or more employees are being urged by the Scottish Government to sign up for asymptomatic workplace testing as part of an enhanced drive to identify emerging cases of coronavirus and break transmission chains. Free lateral flow device (LFD) tests have been made more widely available now that Scotland has moved beyond Level 0 and more employees are returning to their workplaces.

Asymptomatic testing had previously been targeted at prioritised areas of the public sector, national infrastructure and private businesses with higher transmission rates. The expansion of the workplace testing programme – which will initially be offered until the end of September – has been introduced in response to requests from representative bodies from a range of sectors. The testing regime is voluntary, and organisations can either adopt an LFD Collect model to distribute among staff, or implement their own asymptomatic test site (ATS) model in workplaces.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “Testing has a vital role to play as we move safely out of lockdown and this rollout of workplace testing to cover all companies with 10 staff or more builds on our strategy to tackle COVID-19. The vaccination programme has been a major success, however even though you are fully vaccinated it does not guarantee that you cannot catch the virus and pass it on without knowing you have it. Asymptomatic testing will remain an important tool in breaking future chains of transmission.

“As more staff continue to return to the workplace in the months ahead, we must do all we can to ensure this is done as safely as possible. Workplace asymptomatic testing can play an important part in the recovery and organisations across our business, third and public sectors can contribute to this. It’s vital that all results are reported to ensure we understand the prevalence of the virus and halt further transmission.

“I would encourage all organisations that are eligible to sign up for workplace testing and play their part in our recovery from the pandemic.”

You can find out how to apply for workplace testing here.

Businesses and organisations with fewer than 10 employees can direct their team members to collect LFD test kits from a local pharmacy or COVID test site, or order them online for home delivery. More details on this can be found here.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, 3 August, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that Scotland will move beyond Level 0 on Monday, 9 August – whereby the majority of the remaining Covid restrictions will be removed throughout the country.

The key points for visitor attractions to note on what the move to beyond Level 0 means for our sector are:

  • Physical distancing restrictions and limits on social gathering numbers are being removed, but the Scottish Government is still advising the public to maintain distancing and avoid crowded spaces. Attractions should be cognisant of this guidance, and where possible, should be reassuring visitors that measures are still in place to ensure that visitors will enjoy a safe, highly enjoyable experience (e.g. continued monitoring and control of visitor flow through pre-booking, continued use of hand sanitation stations, continued enhanced cleaning protocols etc).
  • Adults identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 will no longer be automatically required to self-isolate for 10 days. Anyone who is double-vaccinated (with at least two weeks passed since their second dose) and who has no symptoms, will be able to end self-isolation provided they return a negative PCR test.
  • It will continue to be the law that face coverings must be worn in indoor public places, including in indoor visitor attractions.
  • There will be a continued requirement for indoor hospitality venues to collect the contact details of customers. This will include cafes, restaurants and bars in visitor attractions. There is no requirement to collect contact details from all visitors to your attraction/s, just those using your hospitality facilities.
  • Table service will no longer be required in hospitality settings beyond level 0, so it will be acceptable to ask visitors to order at a counter/bar.
  • The Scottish Government will, for a limited period, keep in place a gateway process through which organisers of outdoors events of more than 5,000 and indoor events of more than 2000 will have to apply for permission.

 ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: “It is, of course, very heartening to hear that Scotland will move beyond Level 0 on 9 August. The news that restrictions on physical distancing are being lifted is particularly welcome for our members, as this restriction – above all others – has had the biggest impact on our sector’s ability to trade at an economically viable level.

“Of course, the lifting of restrictions will not instantly mean a return to pre-Covid trading for the sector, and we are still a long way off from seeing a full recovery. It will take a considerable period of time for our sector to fully recover, and there can be no doubt that many businesses will still require additional financial support as we move into the difficult winter ahead. However, the continued lifting of restrictions is a very positive step in the right direction and will allow many in our sector to at least begin to get back on their feet.

“It is also important to note that the lifting of restrictions does not mean there will be no more Covid measures in place at visitor attractions. We know that, despite the lifting of most restrictions, our members will continue to maintain a number of measures, such as the continuation of enhanced cleaning protocols, hand sanitisation stations, and controls on visitor flow. Visitor and staff safety has always been the highest priority and there is no doubt that our sector will continue to lead the way when it comes to delivering safe, high-quality experiences for all.”

In recognition of the fact that our members may be looking for advice on what to say to visitors to reassure them that their safety remains a priority for attractions and on-site precautions are being maintained to ensure this, we have amended a specimen statement which is included in the re-opening guidance published by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA). (As we have highlighted in previous E-Updates, this guidance is available in the COVID-19 Info page of our ASVA website, and you can also access it via this link: ALVA reopening guidance.)

To make ALVA’s specimen statement more applicable for Scotland and attractions in our country, we would suggest that our members use the following version (which can, of course, be amended to suit your needs):
‘’This visitor attraction has decided to maintain mitigation measures, including managing capacities and visitor flow, use of hand sanitation stations and enhanced cleaning protocols, until otherwise announced, in accordance with industry best practice and guidance endorsed by the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions.’’

You can read the First Minister’s full statement at this link.

In a move which represents a much-needed boost for Scottish tourism, a significant relaxation of international travel measures was introduced today – Monday 2 August – when quarantine free travel to Scotland began for double vaccinated arrivals from the EU and the US.

The Scottish Government took the decision last week to change the rules on international travel following the announcement by UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP that measures for England were to be relaxed.

Subject to countries remaining on the amber travel list, travellers no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in Scotland. The change, however, does not apply to people who have been in France in the 10 days prior to their arrival, due to concerns about the prevalence of the COVID-19 Beta variant.

Travellers need to show a negative test before departure and produce a negative PCR test result on day two after arrival. The requirement to take a further PCR test on day eight has been dropped. Those arriving are now required to show either the EU Digital COVID Certificate or the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s white card (known as a CDC card) to prove they are fully vaccinated.

Announcing the changes, Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson MSP advised they have been made possible due to the success of the vaccination scheme in Scotland as well as the successful rollouts of vaccine programmes in the EU and US. He also urged people to continue to think carefully about travelling, given the prevalence and unpredictable nature of variants of concern.

Responding to the news of international travel measures being relaxed, ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said:“The fact that fully vaccinated people from the EU and US can now travel to Scotland without quarantining is a significant development for Scottish tourism and visitor attractions. So many businesses depend heavily on the international market so hearing that overseas visitors can now start returning was welcome news. Recovery is, of course, still a very long way off for our sector but this is at least an important step in the right direction; it’s a positive move that will help businesses begin to rebuild from the disastrous economic impact of the pandemic.”

Further details on the new ruling for travellers can be found here.

The Scottish Government was recalled for a virtual session yesterday, Tuesday 13 July, for the latest COVID-19 update by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who confirmed that – as planned – restrictions across mainland Scotland will drop to Level 0 from Monday 19 July.

Urging the need for a cautious and responsible approach to the lifting of restrictions, Ms Sturgeon stressed the importance of the continued use of face coverings, which will remain mandatory where they are currently required – including within indoor settings at visitor attractions. She announced that the move to Level 0 includes some modifications to the Scottish Government’s initial plans – reflecting high levels of Delta variant infection rates. The modifications include a delay in the return to office work, which had been planned as part of Level 0, and the imposition of a midnight curfew on indoor hospitality.

From Monday, one change impacting travel to the benefit of tourism is that fully-vaccinated people coming into the country from amber list countries will no longer need to quarantine, as long as they take a test on arrival.  

The key points for attractions operators to note with regard to the move to Level 0 on 19 July are:

  • Indoor restrictions on social gatherings in a public place will move from 8 people from 3 households to 10 people from 4 households.
  • Outdoor restrictions will also move to 15 people from 15 households.
  • Children under 12 will not count towards either the number of people or the number of households. 
  • Indoor physical distancing requirements will be reduced from two metres to one metre.
  • Outdoor physical distancing requirements of one metre will also apply between different groups, but a group of up to 15 people from 15 households can meet outdoors without distancing.
  • Face coverings will still be mandatory in indoor settings, including in indoor attractions.
  • Test & Protect contact details will still need to be collected in hospitality settings, including attraction cafes & restaurants.
  • Up to 200 people can attend weddings.
  • Large events can take place, with a maximum attendance of 400 people indoors and 2000 people standing or 1000 seated outdoors.

In addition, from 19 July, self-isolation will no longer be required for people arriving from countries on the amber list, provided they are fully vaccinated through a UK vaccination programme and take a PCR test on the second day after arrival.

Ms Sturgeon advised that it is still hoped that Scotland can move ‘beyond Level 0’ on 9 August when most legal restrictions will be dropped, however she warned that some precautions, such as the mandatory wearing of face coverings, and guidance on hand hygiene and ventilation, are likely to remain in place ‘for some time’. She said: “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 0, we will continue to require some baseline measures such as face coverings.”

In terms of the move to ‘ beyond Level 0’, there was a further significant statement made by the First Minister, when she stated that it is likely that from 9 August the requirement will be removed for close contacts of those who test positive to self-isolate – as long as they have been double-vaccinated and have taken a negative PCR test.

Responding to the First Minister’s announcement, ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: “It is, of course, very pleasing to receive confirmation that all of Scotland will move to Level 0 on 19 July. For Scotland’s attractions sector however, the ongoing restrictions on physical distancing are going to continue to have a significant impact on economic viability for many during this crucial summer season. It is certainly more bearable that distancing restrictions are moving to 1 metre, but I know that many attraction operators are looking further ahead to 9  August and ‘beyond Level 0’, as the more significant date, as this is when we will hopefully see the end of physical distancing restrictions completely in both indoor and outdoor settings.
“It was also significant to hear from the First Minister about the changes to self-isolation rules from 9 August. ASVA had just last week reported to the Scottish Government the concerns of many in the sector in relation to the current 10-day self-isolation policy, and the impact this is having on business operations at a number of attractions. It was therefore very pleasing to hear the First Minister report that the Scottish Government will remove the need for people to self-isolate if they have a close contact with a positive case, provided they are double vaccinated and have a negative PCR test.’’
The First Minister’s full statement can be accessed at this link.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon advised of a further slowing down of the easing of restrictions.  She confirmed that there would be no changes to the current COVID-19 Protection Levels and also cautioned that it was unlikely any part of Scotland would move down a Level at next week’s review. This will consider possible changes from 28 June onwards. 

It had been previously hoped the country would move to Level 0, but Ms Sturgeon warned that it was more likely that current restrictions would be kept in place for a further three weeks to give more time for people to be fully vaccinated. She also said any changes that can be made safely within the Levels will be considered.

The Scottish Government intends to publish two pieces of work next week – both of which will look ahead to the restoration of a much greater degree of normality.  The first of these will be a paper setting out what life will look like beyond Level 0, when all or virtually all restrictions can be lifted at some point over the summer. The second will be the publication of the outcome of the governmental review on physical distancing.

The physical distancing review – and the fact that continuing 2-metre restrictions are preventing so many visitor attractions from operating viably – is a key issue for our sector, and one on which ASVA has been lobbying for change; we have been making a robust case for distancing restrictions at attractions to be reduced to 1-metre in line with the hospitality sector.

Commenting on today’s announcement by the First Minister, ASVA Chief Executive Gordon Morrison said: “Whilst it is encouraging to hear that we will be given a clear steer next week on what beyond Level 0 will look like, as well as the publication of the hugely important review of physical distancing measures, the news about a further delay in easing of restrictions presents considerable challenges for our highly seasonal industry.

“As it stands, attractions across the country are facing up to ongoing prohibitive restrictions – such as 2-metre physical distancing – well into the summer season, which means that many will not be able to operate at an economically viable level and will not be able to build vital reserves for the winter. Further financial support for the sector is therefore now essential to ensure that our world-class visitor attractions will be ready and able to lead the full recovery of Scottish tourism in 2022.”  

The full statement made by the First Minister today can be read here.

In her update to the Scottish Parliament today (Tuesday 1 June), the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that, as a result of coronavirus cases stabilising in Glasgow, the city can move down to Protection Level 2 from 00.01 on Saturday 5 June. This means that travel to and from Glasgow can once again open up – a significant and positive development for attractions both in Glasgow and across the country.

Ms Sturgeon also advised that a ‘slight slowing down’ of the anticipated further easing of restrictions for much of Scotland’s Central Belt is however necessary.  Stressing that the decision represented ‘a pause, not a step backwards’, she said that it was important to ‘err on the side of caution’ in recognition of high coronavirus case numbers in some areas – mainly due to outbreaks of the highly-transmissable ‘Delta’ variant – and to reflect the fact that a large proportion of the population is not yet fully vaccinated.

A total of 13 mainland authorities will therefore remain under Level 2 restrictions while the situation with the virus is monitored closely. These are, by Health Board area: East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, East, North, and South Ayrshire, North and South Lanarkshire, Edinburgh and Midlothian, Stirling and Clackmannanshire, and Dundee.

Many areas north and south will move down to Level 1 on 5 June – slightly earlier than provisionally planned – as a consequence of a range of factors, including lower numbers of coronavirus cases and higher vaccination rates. The 15 areas moving to Level 1 are: Highland; Argyll and Bute, Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, and Moray. Angus; Perth and Kinross, Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Fife, West Lothian and East Lothian, The Scottish Borders, and Dumfries & Galloway.

The islands currently in Level 1, including Shetland and the Western Isles, will move to Level 0 on 5 June, and Ms Sturgeon highlighted the continuing importance, for those travelling from the mainland to the islands, of ensuring COVID tests are carried out in advance of trips.

ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: “It is welcome news of course that Glasgow visitor attractions and tourism businesses, after eight months under stricter rules, can finally move down to Level 2. Today’s announcement will however have brought mixed responses from attractions elsewhere in the country – with disappointment from those having to remain in Level 2 for the time-being and relief for others able to move to Levels 1 or 0 on Saturday.

“It remains the case though, that so many visitor attractions throughout Scotland are unable to operate at sustainable levels as a result of continuing restrictions, most particularly 2-metre physical distancing. We are therefore continuing our efforts to lobby robustly for change on this vital issue and very much hope that it will not be much longer until the situation changes to allow operators throughout the country to operate viably.”

Full details of the Protection Levels for each area, and their relevant restrictions, as announced today in the First Minister’s statement, are available here.

You can read the full statement here.