Rules on outdoor meeting in Scotland will ease from Friday, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
Updating MSPs at the Scottish Parliament in the latest lockdown review, she said up to four adults from two households will be able to meet outside then.
Currently, coronavirus regulations restrict meetings to two adults from two households for essential exercise.
The First Minister also announced a relaxation in rules for those aged 12 to 17 meeting outside, who can meet in groups of up to four from up to four households from Friday.
Outdoor meetings will be allowed for social and recreational purposes, as well as essential exercise.
Outdoor, non-contact sports for adults in groups of up to 15 can restart from the same date.
Ms Sturgeon said while travel restrictions cannot be lifted for adults, they will be eased slightly for children taking part in sport where their club may be “a bit outside” their council area.
She also announced communal worship will be able to restart from Friday March 26 and the previously proposed limit of 20 will be increased to 50, where two-metre physical distancing can be accommodated.
Ms Sturgeon said “strong grounds for hope” are provided by a “significant” fall in new cases in recent weeks, along with falling numbers of deaths and hospital admissions.
She said the vaccination programme is “progressing beyond our initial expectations” as almost 40% of the Scottish population had a first dose but warned of the need for caution in easing to avoid a more infectious variant of the virus, which accounts for almost 90% of cases, running out of control.
The First Minister said: “That is why the changes I have announced today are modest.
“But they are also important. They will, I hope, help people’s health and wellbeing, by enabling group exercise, and allowing for a bit more social interaction.
“They will also I hope let children see more of their friends, and exercise and play a bit more normally.
“And they should provide some comfort for faith groups.”
1,719,716 people in Scotland have been tested for #coronavirus— Scottish Government (@scotgov) March 9, 2021
The total confirmed as positive has risen by 466 to 206,465
Sadly 19 more patients who tested positive have died (7,441 in total)
Latest update â¡ï¸ https://t.co/bZPbrCoQux
Health advice â¡ï¸ https://t.co/l7rqArB6Qu pic.twitter.com/wWe9U5eekv
Giving an update on the latest coronavirus figures, Ms Sturgeon said Scotland has recorded the deaths of 19 coronavirus patients and 466 new cases in the past 24 hours.
This takes the death toll under this measure, of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days, to 7,441.
The daily test positivity rate is 3%, down from 5% on Monday.
There are 614 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 40 in 24 hours, and 50 are in intensive care, down nine.
A total of 1,789,377 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Tuesday morning – an increase of 14,718 in a day – and 123,686 have received their second dose.
Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, welcomed the announcement on communal worship.
He said: “Christians are Easter people, we live with hope in all circumstances, and the church will be providing guidance to congregations to help them ensure that buildings are re-opened in a safe and responsible manner.
“While some congregations will adopt a cautious approach regarding the re-opening of our buildings – and others won’t have the practical means to do so – everyone will be very glad at this news and will already be looking forward to how most appropriately to celebrate Easter 2021.”