In a stark contrast to Boris Johnson’s lockdown easing measures, which have set a date of June 21 for the removal of all legal limits on social contact, a Scottish road map for easing lockdown due to be published today will set out only an indicative order of priority and proposed phases with periods of at least three weeks between them.
The opening of schools will be first, followed by sports activities for young people and limited social interaction for adults.
In England, the ‘rule of six’ will return from March 29, while shops, hairdressers, gyms and beer gardens will reopen on April 12.
The Scottish Government said the road map will firstly, gradually ease existing level four restrictions and then, when it is safe to do so, return to more geographically variable levels when all or parts of the country may move to lower levels with more of the economy opening up.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We know we cannot continue in lockdown indefinitely and we must plan a gradual phased return to as much normality as possible.
“The restrictions we have put in place are difficult for individuals, families and businesses across Scotland, but they are working. Case numbers have decreased, the numbers of people in hospital and needing intensive care are coming down and we are now seeing fewer vulnerable people dying from this horrible illness.
“This means we can begin to consider how, carefully and gradually, we can return to some normality in Scotland."
Ms Sturgeon said children and young people would be “a priority” and reiterated hopes that more pupils would return to school in March.
At yesterday’sdaily briefing, she confirmed that current lockdown restrictions across Scotland would be lifted “gradually”, before the nation returned to the geographic “levels” system originally imposed in autumn last year.
Ms Sturgeon said: “A limited number of children and young people were able to return to school yesterday and we have prioritised this because children’s education and wellbeing is such an overriding priority. Of course, this has only been possible because people across Scotland have worked together and made sacrifices to bring down levels of Covid-19.
“We hope that more children will be able to return to school later in March. And we have published new guidance to enable an easing of restrictions on care home visiting from early March.
“Beyond that, giving people the ability to meet loved ones, initially outdoors, is a priority for easing restrictions within the current level four. As we get to a situation where we can move back to a levels approach, with all or part of the country moving down a level, we can start to carefully open the economy again too."
She urged “caution” and said there was a need to “move in a gradual way”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The strategic framework sets out as far as possible at this stage how we will approach the gradual easing of restrictions.
"We will be able to give more detail and clarity in the weeks ahead as we make further progress both on suppressing the virus and vaccinating the population, and as we understand more about the impact of vaccination.”