Gradual and cautious easing of lockdown restrictions

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

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In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined Scotland’s ‘deliberately cautious’ approach to easing lockdown restrictions while continuing to suppress Covid-19.

The updated strategic framework sets out the six ‘tools’ the Scottish Government will use to restore, on a phased basis, greater normality to everyday life in Scotland.

The immediate priority will continue to be the phased return of education, building on the return of some pupils to school on Monday.

On the basis that progress in suppressing the virus and vaccinating key groups remains on track, restrictions would be eased in the following order:

  • The rest of the primary school years, P4 to P7, and more senior phase secondary pupils back in the classroom for part of their learning and the limit on outdoor mixing between households increasing to four people from a maximum of two households;
  • The ‘stay at home’ restriction to be lifted and any final school returns to take place. Communal worship to restart in limited numbers, mindful of the timing of major religious festivals. This would also see the re-opening of retail, starting with an extension of the definition of essential retail and the removal of restrictions on click-and-collect;
  • Return to a tiered approach, with all of Scotland moving to at least tier three, with some possible adjustments. This could mean that from the last week of April, people could expect to see phased but significant re-opening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers.

There is likely to be a gap of at least three weeks between each easing of restrictions to assess the impact of changes, and to check that it is safe to proceed further using the six conditions for safe easing set out by the World Health Organization.

As the vaccination programme progresses, a return to more variable levels of restrictions, which can change by location, is likely when it is safe to do so.

Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I know how hard current restrictions are after 11 long months of this pandemic, however, they are working and we can now see our way out of them.

‘We are in a far better position now than at the start of January and these measures are initial steps on a slow, but hopefully steady, route back to much greater normality.

‘Our intent remains to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible.’

‘At the moment, and for a bit longer, we need to rely very heavily on restrictions to suppress the virus. This is essential when the virus is so transmissible, and when case numbers are still quite high.

‘In time though – once the vast majority of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine – we hope that vaccination will become our main tool for suppressing the virus.

‘The strategic framework is deliberately cautious at this stage but in the coming weeks, if the data allows and positive trends continue, we will seek to accelerate the easing of restrictions.’