In a statement on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced further dates for lockdown easing, including lifting the ‘stay at home’ order from April 2 and the potential for the whole of Scotland to move down to level 3 by April 26, reaching level 0 by the end of June.
The ‘stay at home’ guidance will be replaced by guidance to ‘stay local’ and will not allow travel outside of households’ local authority area unless for essential purposes.
Other changes from April 5 include more students returning to universities and colleges for on-campus learning and the phased reopening of non-essential retail.
This will include homeware stores, car showrooms, garden centres and hairdressers and stores will be allowed to restart click-and-collect services.
The First Minister said any other changes would be made on April 26, with mainland Scotland moving to level 3 and some island communities moving to level 2, providing covid statistics show it is suitable to do so.
Travel within mainland Scotland will be allowed from this date as will travel to other parts of the UK and the wider common travel area.
Restrictions may remain in place in some areas if data shows that there are significant regional differences in covid case numbers, such as on islands.
The same will apply for international travel, where restrictions are expected to remain in place until at least May 17, and most likely for a ‘further period after that’ in order to reduce the potential for any new variants to enter the country.
In the statement to parliament, Sturgeon also announced that from April 26, all remaining retail and tourist accommodation would be allowed to open as well as gyms, libraries, museums and galleries.
Outdoor mixing measures will be relaxed with six people from three households allowed to meet in all outdoor spaces and the number of guests at weddings and funerals will be increased to 50.
Hospitality such as restaurants and pubs will be able to open their doors again, with groups of six people from three households allowed in outdoor seating, until 10PM.
Alcohol will be allowed, including without a meal.
Indoors, food and non-alcoholic drinks can be served to groups of up to four people from two households until 8PM.
Those on the shielding list will be able to safely return to work, further education, school or nurseries and are expected to receive a letter from the government with more detailed advice.
The First Minister noted that after these substantial changes to lockdown restrictions, no further changes would be made until at least three weeks later to assess the impact on coronavirus statistics.
On this date, May 17, there is hope that most of Scotland may be able to return to level 2 with a return to ‘as much normality as possible’.
This is the first date from which people will be able to meet indoors. Cinemas and arcades will reopen, and outdoor and indoor live events may return but on a smaller scale.
Universities are to return to a blended model of teaching, a change which will occur over 6 weeks after the end of the Edinburgh summer semester.
A move to levels 1 and 0 could come as early as June, with the First Minister concluding her statement by saying:
“The steps I have outlined today give a significant degree of clarity for the period between now and mid-May.
“The unpredictable nature of this virus means it is difficult to give quite as much clarity beyond that point.
“However, our hope and ambition is that from early June, all of Scotland will move to level 1 – which will allow for a further easing of restrictions.
“And then by the end of June, we hope that all of Scotland will move to at least level 0.”
Image: H. Michael Karshis via Flickr