The region is “turning a corner” in the fight against the coronavirus.
It was announced on Tuesday that Dumfries and Galloway is be placed in level one of the Scottish Government’s restriction system – at almost exactly the same time as the first people in the region received the Pfizer vaccine to protect them from Covid-19.
The developments mean that from 6pm tomorrow, pubs and restaurants will be able to serve alcohol indoors and outdoors until 10.30pm, regardless of whether customers are having food.
The news has come as a relief to Allen Henderson of Sulwath Brewers in Castle Douglas which was forced to close last month as it didn’t have a kitchen – even though customers could enjoy meals supplied by a local caterer.
Mr Henderson said: “It is fantastic news, I just hope we stay there and everyone behaves themselves.
“We will be back open on Saturday and we will be ready for an influx of business from the wet bars that have had to be closed all this time.”
Tuesday’s announcement by Nicola Sturgeon also means the region’s “wet bars”– pubs which don’t have a kitchen – can open for the first time since November 2.
That’s good news for Julie Clanahan, landlady of the Cum Ye Inn in Dalbeattie.
She said: “It is absolutely amazing news. We are in the middle of a refurbishment so have taken the decision not to open until Monday but we can’t wait to see all our customers again in the new look Cum Ye Inn.
“We were closed for the first lockdown and then open in the garden during the summer before closing again in November so we’re really pleased.”
Other changes at level one include an increase in the number of people who can meet outdoors. It has now risen to eight people from three households.
However, the ban on meeting in private homes remains – although it will be relaxed over the festive period.
Tuesday’s was also the day mass rollout of the Pfizer vaccine began at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary with NHS front line staff the first to receive it.
One of the first people to receive it was Dr David Pedley, a consultant in the emergency department team at DGRI. He received his first jab on Tuesday with the second dose required within 21 to 28 days.
He said: “This is a real step in the fight against the virus.
“I’m genuinely surprised that it’s happened so quickly and so soon. The ball is rolling now. I felt privileged and I’m happy to be vaccinated.
“It doesn’t hurt, you barely feel it and it’s over in a second. This represents the way out of this situation we’re in.
“I firmly believe the vaccine I received today is the best, safest means for us to tackle the dangers posed by Covid-19 and be able to get on with our lives.
“I had no reservations about receiving my vaccination and would strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated when it’s their opportunity.”
Initially vaccinations will take place at DGRI with 250 in the first week with 75 every day thereafter.
Inoculations are expected to begin for residents and care home staff next week. There are 16,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech due to be delivered by the end of the month to NHS Dumfries and Galloway.
NHS Dumfries and Galloway medical director Kenneth Donaldson said: “This is a fantastic day. It feels like we’re turning a corner here.
“It’s been going great. We’re starting with front line workers and next week we’ll continue with that but hopefully move into care homes and care home workers.
“While we appreciate there’s an eagerness to find out when vaccines will be provided to everyone, we’d ask that people not contact their GP or the NHS. Don’t come seeking it out, we will be in touch with you when it’s your turn as it were.
“Continue to wear face masks, wash your hands, keep your distance for several more months. Because it will take us well into spring to get through the whole population.”