The First Minister has set out a timetable for the re-opening of parts of society over the next two months.
Stay at Home regulations will be lifted on 2 April and replaced with guidance to Stay Local, with more services including hairdressers, garden centres and non-essential click and collect services able to open from 5 April.
More college students will also return to on-campus learning and outdoor contact sports will resume for 12-17 year olds on 5 April if progress on vaccination and suppression of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues.
The Scottish Government then hopes to lift all restrictions on journeys in mainland Scotland on 26 April. Discussions will be held with island communities already in lower levels on the possibility of having a faster return to more socialising and hospitality with restrictions on mainland travel to protect against importation of the virus.
Vaccination of all nine JCVI priority groups – more than half of the population, accounting for 99% of COVID-related fatalities – is expected to be completed by mid-April, supplies allowing. The dates outlined are enabled by strong new evidence that suggests vaccines reduce the chances of transmitting the virus as well as reducing serious illness and death, even after a first dose.
Further expected easing on 26 April includes:
On 17 May, it is hoped that groups of four people from two households would be able to socialise indoors in a private home, and that cinemas, amusement arcades and small scale outdoor and indoor events could restart with limits on capacity. Further easing on this date would include outdoor contact sport for adults and indoor group exercise
The First Minister also indicated that in early June it is hoped that Scotland could move to Level 1 and by end of June to level 0.
Grants of up to £7,500 for retailers and up to £19,500 for hospitality and leisure businesses will be paid in April to help businesses re-open progressively. These one-off re-start grants will replace ongoing Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF) payments and will provide more money up front to help with the costs of re-opening. Eligible businesses must have applied to the SFBF by 22 March in order to receive these payments. The last four-weekly SFBF payment of up to £3,000 will be paid on 22 March, as scheduled. Targeted restart grants for businesses that are not in scope for the current SFBF support package may be considered if the Scottish Government receives further consequentials from the UK Government.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Vaccination is already having a significant impact on the number of deaths in Scotland, and research giving us more confidence in its effects against new variants and in helping prevent transmission. That gives us more confidence in setting possible dates for our next steps out of lockdown in addition to the significant changes set out last week to allow more socialisation, and get children back to school as soon as possible.
“It is not possible to provide specific dates or details for coming out of lockdown beyond 17 May – that will depend on what impact there is from the changes already made - however my hope and ambition is that from early June, all of Scotland will effectively be in level 1 of the levels system, allowing for a further easing of restrictions – and possibly moving to level 0 in late June.
“That is not the endpoint - we hope and expect that vaccination, better treatments, continued use of the test and protect system, and proportionate ongoing precautions such as good hand hygiene will allow us to keep COVID under much greater control. This will allow us to enjoy many of the things that we took for granted before the pandemic– normal family gatherings where we can hug our loved ones, sporting events, gigs and nightclubs. I cannot set a date for that point yet, but I do believe that over the coming weeks as more and more adults are vaccinated it will be possible to set a firmer date by which many of these normal things will be possible, and I am very optimistic that this date will be over the summer.
“Thanks to the sacrifices we all made three months ago, and the success of the vaccination programme we are now in a much better and brighter position, with well-earned optimism as we look ahead to the summer. We are getting the virus under control, but it is still dangerous, and to reach these dates it’s more important than ever now to stay within the rules – until 2 April stay at home, except for essential purposes; don’t meet people from other households indoors, and follow the FACTS advice when out and about.”
The Scottish Government’s priority is to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible. There are six main tools for achieving this:
The six conditions for safe easing set out by the World Health Organisation are: