Increased social interaction and education priorities of lockdown easing

Increased social interaction and the return of older pupils to schools will be prioritised in the first minister's plans to ease Scotland's lockdown.

Nicola Sturgeon will set out a revised strategy for easing restrictions across the country in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon.

Sports activities for young people will also be high on the list.

But it is unlikely that specific dates will be given for the resumption of most activities, with the first minister indicating that decisions will instead focus on the latest coronavirus data.

Any changes will take place at intervals of at least three weeks.

In the first instance, that is likely to mean a gradual easing of the current level four restrictions, before a return to the tiers system where different levels apply across the country.

Ms Sturgeon said: "We know we cannot continue in lockdown indefinitely and we must plan a gradual phased return to as much normality as possible.

"The restrictions we have put in place are difficult for individuals, families and businesses across Scotland, but they are working – case numbers have decreased, the numbers of people in hospital and needing intensive care are coming down and we are now seeing fewer vulnerable people dying from this horrible illness. 

"This means we can begin to consider how, carefully and gradually, we can return to some normality in Scotland.

"A limited number of children and young people were able to return to school yesterday and we have prioritised this because children’s education and wellbeing is such an overriding priority.

"Of course, this has only been possible because people across Scotland have worked together and made sacrifices to bring down levels of Covid-19.

"We hope that more children will be able to return to school later in March. And we have published new guidance to enable an easing of restrictions on care home visiting from early March.

"Beyond that, giving people the ability to meet loved ones, initially outdoors, is a priority for easing restrictions within the current level four.

"As we get to a situation where we can move back to a levels approach, with all or part of the country moving down a level, we can start to carefully open the economy again too.

"The strategic framework sets out as far as possible at this stage how we will approach the gradual easing of restrictions. We will be able to give more detail and clarity in the weeks ahead as we make further progress both on suppressing the virus and vaccinating the population, and as we understand more about the impact of vaccination.

"However, to keep moving in the right direction and avoid setbacks caution will be necessary, which is why the framework will be clear about the need to move in a gradual way."

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