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First Minister targets a late April reopening of hospitality, retail, hairdressers and gyms but foreign travel is still off the cards

By Scott Maclennan

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a daily briefing.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a daily briefing.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has issued what is the long-awaited new roadmap out of lockdown that targets a late April emergence from the most severe restrictions.

Making the announcement in Holyrood, she was unable to offer all the details but another update will be released in mid-March.

The plan depends largely on the vaccination programme reaching its targets by April followed by a return of the levels system.

That means people in all nine categories of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation priority list would have to have at least their first jab.

That transition from using the lockdown to cut virus numbers to using the vaccine is seen as key to the tempo of removing restrictions.

The top government priority is the return of schools, a process that has already been launched while the restart of care home visits is scheduled for early March.

However, foreign travel will still be prohibited but other measures will be relaxed in the coming weeks.

As the framework progresses, more changes will be made at three week intervals, though some could be “accelerated” according to Ms Sturgeon.

From March 15, the government is eyeing the next phase of returning pupils to school with primary school years four to seven and more secondary pupils able to get back to classes.

Additionally, outdoor non-contact sports for 12 to 17 year olds will be allowed while the number of people permitted to mix outdoors will go up to four people from two households.

Three weeks on from that – around April 5 – it is hoped the stay at home restriction will be lifted along with the ban on communal worship and the final phase of schools going back will be launched.

Within that same phase indoor meetings could also be allowed for six people from two households and essential retailers list will be expanded slightly and click-and-collect will resume for non-essential retail.

From April 26, the whole country will finally move to the lockdown levels which could allow some areas depending on the prevalence of Covid to move straight from Level Four to Level Three.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We will also begin the reopening of retail that will start with an extension of the definition of essential retail and the removal of restrictions on click and collect and then three weeks after that, as I indicated earlier.

“So from April 26 assuming the data allows it we will move back to levels with hopefully all of Scotland that is currently in level four moving to level three albeit with some possible modification.

“And at that stage we will begin to reopen the economy and society in the more substantial way that we are all longing for.

“It is of course important for me to stress that all of this depends on us continuing to suppress the virus now and continuing to accept some trade-offs for a period, for example an international travel, but if we do so I am very optimistic that we can make good progress in returning more normality to our lives and to the economy."

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