Most rugby and football matches played in the region since then have not been unduly affected by that restriction on spectator numbers, but Vale of Leithen were forced to turn fans away from their 6-0 Scottish Lowland Football League home defeat by Rangers B on Tuesday, December 28, and Borders rugby derbies such as Gala’s planned Waverley Cup match against Melrose on Boxing Day might well have attracted attendances in excess of that figure had they not been called off as part of the same nationwide effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The lifting of the 500 cap on Monday, January 17, will be welcomed by sports fans here, however, as it means they will be able to join capacity crowds of almost 70,000 cheering Scotland on at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium next month on during rugby’s Six Nations tournament.
The Scots, managed by Gala’s Gregor Townsend and captained by Hawick’s Stuart Hogg, have two games lined up in the capital – against England on Saturday, February 5, and France on Saturday, February 26.
Giving a Covid-19 pandemic update to the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon said: "I can confirm today that the attendance limit of 500 at large-scale outdoor events will be lifted from Monday, January 17.
“That means, for example, that spectators will be permitted again at major outdoor sporting events, including football fixtures scheduled for early next week and the forthcoming Six Nations rugby matches.”
She also confirmed that Covid certification will now only be valid for those given a booster jab as well as two previous injections, with clubs being required to check the vaccination status of at least half of those attending events with crowds in four figures or more.
“The Covid certification scheme will remain in place for these and other events and venues previously covered, but with two important changes,” said Sturgeon.
“Firstly, our guidance will now stipulate that the organisers of large events of 1,000 or more people should check the certification status of at least 50% of attendees, rather than the current 20% or at least 1,000 people, whichever figure is highest, and secondly, from Monday, the requirement to be fully vaccinated for the purposes of Covid certification will include having a booster if the second dose was more than four months ago.
“It will still be possible to gain admission to events and venues covered by the certification scheme by providing proof of a recent negative lateral flow test.”
Sturgeon said she also hopes to give indoor sporting events with spectators the go-ahead to resume from Monday, January 24.