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Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a “cautious and gradual” plan for how coronavirus lockdown measures will be eased in Scotland.
Unlike Boris Johnson’s “roadmap”, the “strategic framework” deliberately avoids specific dates. “If we open up too quickly to meet arbitrary dates, we risk setting our progress back,” the first minister says in a foreword to the document.
A day after the release of England’s date-heavy plan, Sturgeon said: “To set dates that are too definite now would be irresponsible. There are far too many uncertainties such as the impacts of both new variants and of the vaccinations.”
Instead Scotland’s government will implement a series of stages for easing lockdown “when the epidemiological conditions allow”. Sturgeon said the Scottish government would continue to aim to “suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there”.
But approximate dates are given in the document, and it says there will need to be a gap of at least three weeks between each stage.
Stage 1: now to early March
On Monday children between the ages of four and eight in primary years one to three returned to school, along with some senior secondary pupils who need to do practical work for qualifications and nursery-age children.
Restrictions on care home visiting will be eased.
Stage 2: from mid-March
The second phase of school reopening with all primary schoolchildren set to return to class, as years four to seven join their younger classmates who returned on 22 February.
More senior secondary pupils will also return.
Children aged 12-17 can take part in outdoor non-contact group sports.
The number of people who can meet outside will increase from two to four people from two households.
Stage 3: from early April
The “stay at home” order could be lifted.
All pupils likely to be back in school.
Some retail will begin to return, with the definition of essential retail extended and restrictions on click-and-collect services removed.
Six people from two households can meet together outdoors.
Churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship can reopen. The exact return date for communal worship will take into account the timing of major religious festivals, with Easter and Passover falling on 4 April.
Stage 4: from late April
Scotland will move back to its five tiers of coronavirus restrictions, with level 0 the least restrictive and level 4 most.
All areas are currently in level 4. Sturgeon said from 26 April “hopefully all of Scotland” will move to level 3, “albeit with some possible modifications”. But strategy stresses this would only happen if the R number remains below 1 and all the first nine priority groups have been vaccinated.
Non-essential retail, hospitality, and gyms and hairdressers can reopen in level 3, though under current rules alcohol cannot be served in pubs.
Sturgeon added that at this stage “we will begin to reopen the economy and society in the more substantial way that we are all so longing for”.
Travel restrictions to continue
Sturgeon said the easing required “continuing to accept some trade-offs for a period, for example on international travel”. She said: “Travel restrictions are also essential and are likely to remain so for some time yet.
“We saw over the summer how new cases were imported into Scotland, after the virus had almost been eliminated. We do not want that to happen again.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Scotland’s stages: how coronavirus lockdown will be eased | Scotland