Covid: Sturgeon 'optimistic' about return to normality in Scotland

Scotland is set to return to a levels system in the last week of April "if all goes to plan" and The Scottish Government also hopes to have removed the stay at home restriction by April 5.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon to outline how the nation will emerge from lockdown.

She said that from the end of April she hoped to have a "phased but significant reopening of the economy".

Ms Sturgeon has described the situation regarding Covid-19 in Scotland as "extremely positive and promising", with case numbers down by almost a third compared to January. She added though that the situation was still "quite precarious".

The First Minister said that regulations were required "for now and a bit longer" but added:

We do hope vaccination will become our main tool for suppression."

Nicola Sturgeon MSP

Ms Sturgeon said lockdown would ease in phases, separated by at least three weeks, culminating in the removal of the stay at home order and education returning fully on April 5. After lockdown is lifted, Scotland will move back to the levels system, potentially with some revisions to the content of levels.

In the last week of April, Ms Sturgeon said all of Scotland should be placed into Level 3.

The rest of primary school years, as well as more senior phase pupils in secondary schools, will be part of the second phase - which will come no earlier than March 15 - along with an increase in outdoor mixing to four people from two households.

Communal worship, a further extension to outdoor mixing and more freedoms in retail are also hoped to be put in place from April 5.

Scotland's First Minister has said she is "optimistic" about restoring "more normality" to people's lives in the coming months. She added though that Scots would have to accept some trade-offs in the near future to see a longer-term unlocking in the country.

She said:

It is important to stress, of course, 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 on international travel.

Nicola Sturgeon MSP

She added:

However, if we do so, I am optimistic that we can make good progress in returning more normality to our lives and the economy. I know this is still a cautious approach which though absolutely essential to control the virus and protect health, is extremely difficult for many businesses.

Nicola Sturgeon MSP

Opposition politicians were critical of the First Minister's statement.

Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives at Holyrood, said it was a "holding document" until the end of April and said people had "a right to be disappointed".

She also criticised a lack of information for people awaiting medical treatments and those who had put "life events" like weddings on hold and pointed to no details on issues like the end of social distancing. She added that under current Level 3 restrictions, people cannot leave their council area.

Jackie Bailie, the acting leader of Scottish Labour, asked for a revised testing programme and what the "ultimate goal" of the Government's strategy was. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was concerned that vaccine passports were "gaining traction".

Ms Sturgeon's announcement comes a day after Boris Jonson outlined his strategy for lifting England out of lockdown.