Lockdown restrictions in Scotland will remain in force until at least the end of February, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The Scottish Government previously said the lockdown for Level 4 areas – mainland Scotland and some islands areas – would last until at least mid-February.
Ms Sturgeon said restrictions have reduced the prevalence of the virus, and depending on progress “we may be able to look at a careful and gradual easing at around the start of March”.
Schools in Scotland will return on a phased basis from February 22 subject to final confirmation in two weeks’ time.
Under the plan, if confirmed, all children under school age in early learning and childcare will return.
Pupils in Primary 1 to Primary 3 will also be allowed back into school, as will those in the senior phase of secondary school.
However, the First Minister said older pupils will only be able to return to ensure practical work important to achieving qualifications is completed, and only between 5% and 8% of any school’s roll should be able to return.
1,575,220 people in Scotland have been tested for #coronavirus
The total confirmed as positive has risen by 758 to 181,291
Sadly 69 more patients who tested positive have died (6,181 in total)
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) February 2, 2021
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister also announced travellers coming to Scotland from any country may be asked to quarantine in a hotel, going further than systems announced in the rest of the UK.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “The firm view of the Scottish Government is that in order to minimise the risk of new strains coming into the country, managed quarantine must be much more comprehensive.
“I can therefore confirm today that we intend to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of which country they have come from.”
She said she could not “unilaterally” impose such restrictions on people landing elsewhere in the UK and travelling to Scotland, but hoped the other administrations would work with the Scottish Government to reduce the number of people doing so.
Speaking later on BBC Radio Scotland Drivetime with John Beattie, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said he regrets not bringing in stricter quarantine measures for Scotland last summer.
He told the programme: “I certainly look back on that period and wish we had applied more significant constraints on international travel. I unreservedly accept that.
“But I think what we’ve got to focus on now is the fact that the government has taken that decision and we would like to do it emphatically and to do it emphatically we’d like to do that with the other nations of the United Kingdom.
“But if there isn’t a willingness we will do it to protect the public in Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday that Covid-19 prevalence in Scotland has fallen under the lockdown regulations, dropping from 302 per 100,000 in the week ending January 8 to 136 per 100,000 last week.
She said: “Test positivity has also reduced. In the seven days up to January 29 it averaged 6.6% – still higher, but closer than it has been in recent weeks, to the 5% that the WHO consider to be indicative of an outbreak being under control.
“Pressure on our NHS continues to be severe. The number of Covid patients being treated in hospital remains around 30% above the high point of the first wave last April.
“However, hospital admissions in this wave appear to have peaked on January 12.
“They have now stabilised and are starting to reduce, albeit slowly.”