Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a ‘cautious and phased’ plan for how coronavirus lockdown measures will be relaxed in Scotland.
Unlike Boris Johnson’s “road map”, the “strategic framework” deliberately avoids specific dates. “If we open up too quickly to meet arbitrary dates, we risk delaying our progress,” the Prime Minister said in a foreword to the document.
Related: Sturgeon unveils plans to ease Covid restrictions in Scotland
A day after the publication of the English plan loaded with dates, Sturgeon said: “To fix too precise dates now would be irresponsible. There are far too many uncertainties such as the impacts of both the new variants and the vaccinations. “
Instead, the Scottish Government will be implementing a series of steps to facilitate the lockdown ‘when epidemiological conditions permit’. Sturgeon said the Scottish government will continue to aim to “remove the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it”.
But the approximate dates are given in the document, and it says there will be an interval of at least three weeks between each step.
Step 1: now to early March
On Monday, children aged four to eight in primary one to three returned to school, as well as some upper secondary students who need practical work to graduate and children of age preschool.
Restrictions on home visits will be relaxed.
Step 2: from the middle-March
The second phase of the school reopens with all primary schoolchildren ready to return to class, as years four to seven join their younger classmates who returned on February 22.
More high school students will also be returning.
Children aged 12 to 17 can participate in non-contact outdoor group sports.
The number of people who can meet outdoors will increase from two to four people from two households.
Stage 3: from the beginning of April
The order to “stay at home” could be lifted.
All students likely to return to school.
Some retail businesses will begin to return, with the definition of essential retail being extended and restrictions on click-and-collect services removed.
Six people from two households can be found outside.
Churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship can reopen. The exact date of return from community worship will take into account the calendar of major religious holidays, Easter and Passover falling on April 4.
Stage 4: from the end of April
Scotland will revert to its five levels of coronavirus restrictions, with level 0 being the least restrictive and level 4 the most.
All zones are currently at level 4. Sturgeon said that from April 26, “I hope all of Scotland” will be upgraded to level 3, “with some possible modifications”. But the strategy emphasizes that this will only happen if the R-number remains below 1 and the first nine priority groups have been vaccinated.
Non-essential businesses, hotels, gyms and hairdressers can reopen at level 3, although under current rules alcohol cannot be served in pubs.
Sturgeon added that at this point “we will begin to reopen the economy and society in the most substantial way we all aspire to.”
Travel restrictions to continue
Sturgeon said the easing required “to continue to accept certain compromises for a period, for example on international travel”. She said: “Travel restrictions are also essential and will likely remain so for some time to come.
“We saw over the summer how new cases were imported into Scotland, after the virus was nearly wiped out. We don’t want this to happen again. “