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Scotland’s schools are expected to fully reopen in early April, with some household mixing allowed, after Nicola Sturgeon unveiled a partial route map to lifting the country’s strict Covid controls.
In a statement to Holyrood, the first minister confirmed that Scotland’s lockdown would remain in place for at least six weeks, with the stay-at-home rule enforced until 5 April at the earliest.
She did not expect non-essential shops, or outdoor bars and restaurants, would be allowed to reopen until late April, the date at which the government expected to move to regional or local lockdown levels.
Sturgeon told MSPs the priority was to suppress the virus, with the goal of virtually eliminating it from the community, and that meant she would take a very precautionary approach to lifting the lockdown.
She said the vaccination programme in Scotland was “motoring”, with nearly 1.5 million people having received their first dose, with all nine priority groups now expected to be vaccinated by mid-April, a few weeks earlier than originally forecast.
Even so, until transmission rates were much lower and the vaccination programme completed, caution was needed. The new Kent variant was still at large and highly transmissable.
“It is by being cautious, careful and patient for the next period – while the vaccination programme progresses – that we will make that route as safe and sustainable as possible,” she said.
“Taking the brakes off too quickly will allow the virus to get ahead of us again and put our progress out of lockdown into reverse.”
In contrast to Boris Johnson’s detailed route map published on Monday, which included target dates and covered all social and business sectors in England, Sturgeon offered few specific details about what else would reopen and when.
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader in Holyrood, said that would disappoint many voters and businesses who had watched her statement in the hope of getting greater certainty. There was no mention of sports venues, or weddings, or when social distancing rules would be eased.
“There is nothing on what would happen after 26 April,” Davidson added. “This isn’t a route map out of Covid; it’s a holding document for the next eight weeks.” Voters “were not expecting certainty but they were expecting the first minister to give them some form of hope”.
Business leaders urged Sturgeon to quickly offer more detail and longer-term targets with the owner of Glasgow and Aberdeen airports furious there was no clarity on air travel and holidays resuming. The Federation of Small Businesses said more than half of firms were worried they would not survive the next few months, and a third of owners worried about their mental health.
Sturgeon defended the strategy, and said that in the last week of April there would be a “significant” reopening of the economy, with hairdressers, non-essential retail, restaurants and gyms allowed to resume business.
From 15 March, all primary school children would be back in class, with senior secondary pupils allowed in part time. Non-contact group sports for children aged 12 to 17, and greater household mixing, allowing four people from two households, would also resume then. Schools would fully reopen from 5 April, as would limited communal worship.
Sturgeon said Johnson had warned his more detailed route map was conditional and open for revision, and refused to take up an invitation from Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green leader, to attack the prime minister.
Even so, she insisted caution was a more prudent approach. “I want to give as much as possible today – while avoiding giving false assurance or picking arbitrary dates that have no grounding at this stage in any objective assessment,” she said.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Sturgeon unveils plans for easing Scotland’s Covid restrictions | UK news