Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made her announced of the reopening of the country's economy - including shops, bars, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers - is expected to start from April 26. She said it was hoped that the country's ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions could be lifted on April 5.
With four people from two households being allowed to meet outdoors from March 15, all primary pupils and S4 to S6 secondary students could return to school from that date. But pupils in the first three years of secondary school are unlikely to return until after the Easter holidays.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish government's strategic framework was deliberately cautious at this stage. "But in the coming weeks, if the data allows and positive trends continue, we will seek to accelerate the easing of restrictions," she said. However, opposition parties said the statement "fell short" of expectations and lacked clarity on its "ultimate goal", while business leaders called for more detail.
Prime Minister Johnson announced that shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality in England could reopen on April 12. Under a four-step plan to ease lockdown south of the border, all legal limits on social contact could be lifted by 21 June if strict conditions are met.
The First Minister said the aim in Scotland was to move fully back to a levels system of restrictions from the last week in April. She said: "At that stage, we hope that all parts of the country currently in level four will be able to move out of level four and back initially to level three - possibly with some revision to the content of the levels."
Ms Sturgeon said that from April 26, the government would expect to see a phased but significant re-opening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers. The aim is for a progressive easing of the level four restrictions at three-week intervals.
She said schools were the immediate priority with the country's youngest children and some senior pupils having returned to the classroom on Monday. It is hoped that the next phase will see the remaining primary school pupils return from March 15, with more senior pupils back in the classroom "for at least part of their learning". Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that this would not just be senior pupils studying for qualifications, and that he wanted to see all S4 to S6 pupils "back into the school system" on this date if the data allows.
The rules on outdoor mixing would also be relaxed on that date, with up to four people from two households allowed to meet, and non-contact sports for under-18s resuming. The final phase of the return to school would take place from April 5, a date when school pupils will be at the start or middle of their Easter holiday break. It is also hoped to lift the stay at home restrictions from that date. At least six people from two households should be able to meet together outdoors, and communal worship will be allowed to resume.
The timing of major religious festivals - such as Easter - will be taken into account when deciding the exact date. The levels system of restrictions would then be reintroduced from April 26, along with a more substantial reopening of society and the economy.
Ms Sturgeon 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. However, if we do so, I am optimistic that we can make good progress in returning more normality to our lives and the economy."