Scotland lockdown roadmap: Key dates for easing

Sam Hancock and Joe Middleton
·4-min read

Nicola Sturgeon has updated MSPs on the country’s efforts to bring coronavirus under control and announced the easing of a series of lockdown restrictions.

Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday that 40 per cent of adults in Scotland had received a first vaccine dose and that the rollout of jabs was making “good progress”.

The first minister went on to confirm a number of changes to lockdown rules, calling them “relatively minor” but “important for well-being.”

She said that four people from two households would be able to meet outdoors from Friday and that communal worship was set to start again from March 26.

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Lockdown restrictions in the country started to be eased last month and a phased return to schools began in mid-February. Ms Sturgeon is expected to announce further lockdown easing measures next week.

The first minister has called the country’s approach “deliberately cautious”, similar to words Boris Johnson used when detailing England’s plans.

Here is what you need to know.

Which restrictions will be lifted first?

12 March: Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that four people from two households will be allowed to meet outdoors. For children aged between 12 and 17, outdoor meetings will also be limited to four people, but these can be from up to four households.

Travel restrictions have not been lifted but will be eased slightly for children taking part in sport where their club may be “a bit outside” their council area. Outdoor, non-contact sports for adults in groups of up to 15 will also be able to start again from Friday as well.

26 March: Communal worship in Scotland will restart. The limit for services will rise from 20 people to 50 people.

5 April: Scotland “hopes” to lift the current stay-at-home restriction, which was worked into law, but this will depend on the data that comes out of measures being eased in March. By this point, the final phase of children returning to school would also take place.

Read more: Sturgeon breaks with England to announce return to tiered restrictions

Last week of April (26-30): Scotland will return to a regional, five-level tier system from the last week in April “if virus suppression continues”.

“It is therefore from the last week of April that we would expect to see phased but significant reopening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers,” Ms Sturgeon announced to Scottish parliament.

Travel restrictions in Scotland will remain for “some time yet”, she added, stressing it is important that cases of the virus, particularly of new variants of the virus, are not imported into the country.

The first minister said more detail would be given in mid-March, including the order in which parts of the economy will reopen and what summer in Scotland might look like “when we hope to be living with much greater freedoms than we are today”.

What is the science behind the decision?

Unveiling the revised road map out of lockdown, the SNP leader told MSPs lockdown would ease in phases, separated by at least three weeks and contingent on suppression of the virus continuing.

As in England, ministers and scientists will scrutinise data at each intended stage of easing restrictions – allowing the evidence to lead decision making.

While Ms Sturgeon said she hoped to give “as much clarity as possible” on Tuesday, she added she wanted to avoid “giving false assurance or picking arbitrary dates that have no grounding at this stage in any objective assessment”.

She continued: “I am as confident as I can be that the indicative, staged timetable that I have set out today – from now until late April when the economy will start to substantially reopen – is a reasonable one.”

Later, while taking questions from fellow MSPs, Ms Sturgeon criticised Mr Johnson for setting an “aspirational” get-out-of-lockdown date in England.

“I would love to stand here and say that by 21 June we’ll all be back to normal,” she said, “but I can’t say that with any certainty at all.”

She added she had “no idea” what “grounding” England’s roadmap out of lockdown was based on.

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