Scotland coming out of lockdown slower than England

Nicola Sturgeon has outlined her roadmap for ending Covid-19 restrictions this afternoon – and it largely moves at a slower pace than the one set out by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Scotland will then lift its coronavirus stay-at-home order on April 2 and replace it with guidance to stay local for no more than three weeks, Nicola Sturgeon has said today. In England, the stay at home order ends on March 29.

Wales has already started lifting its restrictions, with outdoor sports facilities reopening and limited outdoor mixing of households allowed from last weekend.

Scotland will then move out of lockdown and into a “modified Level 3” on April 26. In England, step 2 of ending lockdown will come “no earlier” that April 12.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that the vaccination programme will have reached those most at risk of dying from Covd-19, which “will give us confidence to ease restrictions much more significantly from April 26”. On the same date, travel restrictions across the country will be dropped.

The First Minister said: “We hope that restrictions on journeys between Scotland and other parts of the UK and the wider common travel area can also be lifted, if not on April 26, then as soon as possible thereafter.”

Mrs Sturgeon told MSPs she hoped to allow all non-essential retail to return, with hospitality premises allowed to serve alcohol outdoors and food only indoors.

In England, non-essential retail, hairdressers and nail salons, and public buildings, such as libraries and community centres, will be able to reopen “no earlier” that April 12, and will see.

Hairdressers and non-essential retail were allowed to resume in Wales from yesterday.

However, attendance at funerals, weddings and associated events will also increase to a maximum of 50 in Scotland from April 26, while, in England, funerals will be restricted to 30 people, and the numbers able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15 (from 6).

Scotland is then expected to move from Level 3 to Level 2 on May 17, said Mrs Sturgeon. This is broadly similar in timescale to ‘Step 3’ of Boris Jonson’s roadmap, but the restrictions are not being eased as much.

She First Minister told MSPs that while changes at the end of April will need to be monitored, indoor hospitality will return to a greater degree of normality with alcohol able to be served indoors.

She said: “The precise detail of any continued restrictions will depend on an assessment of the situation closer to the time.

“However, we will be aiming for us as much normality as possible.”

Indoor socialising is also expected to return on May 17, the First Minister said, with plans announced to allow four people from two households to meet, while there will also be a further relaxation on outdoor mixing.

By comparison, in England, most social contact rules will be lifted “no earlier than 17 May” – although “gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal”.

The Scottish Government plans to move Scotland into Level 1 in early June, before shifting to Level 0 by the end of the month, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

In England, Step 4 will come “no earlier than 21 June” when it is “hoped all legal limits on social contact can be removed”, with the reopening of nightclubs, and lifting restrictions on large events and performances.

The First Minister said she hoped that vaccination and Test and Protect would lead Scotland closer to normality, but added she could not say when restrictions would be fully lifted.

“For me to set a precise date for all of that right now would involve plucking it out of thin air – and I’d be doing it to make my life easier, not yours,” she said.

“I am not going to do that. 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.

“I am optimistic that this date will be over the summer.

“I know I will not be the only one now looking forward – with a real sense of hope – to hugging my family this summer.”

She also warned against complacency as she announced the easing of restrictions in the coming weeks in Scotland.

The First Minister said that while she hopes to be able to lift the stay-at-home order and open retail and hospitality at different points next month, work was still required to ensure cases did not rise.

Mrs Sturgeon said: “This is certainly the most hopeful I have felt about the situation for a long time.

“However, as you would expect, I do need to add a note of caution.

“I know this is the bit none of us want to hear, but the route back to normality does depend on continued suppression.”

The First Minister added: “We must continue to suppress it to the lowest level possible.”

Businesses in Scotland will also receive a “restart grant” from the Scottish Government as coronavirus measures ease, Mrs Sturgeon has said.

She told MSPs those in receipt of the Strategic Business Framework Fund would receive a final payment on March 22.

She added: “Then on April 19, recipients will receive a combined final payment comprising a further two weeks closure support and a one-off restart grant.

“For eligible retail businesses this will mean a payment on April 19 of up to £7,500 and for eligible hospitality and leisure businesses a payment of up to £19,500.

“This will provide support that is both more generous and also more flexible than previously envisaged.”