First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was the most optimistic she has been in months as she laid out plans to take Scotland out of lockdown.
Hairdressers, non-essential retail and garden centres to reopen in the coming weeks, with pubs and restaurants also getting an idea of when they can finally reopen their doors for the first time since Christmas.
Stay at home message to be lifted
From April 2, the current stay at home order for Scotland will be lifted, and replaced with a Stay Local advisory. Travel is not permitted outside of your own local authority area, unless for essential reasons.
Ms Sturgeon said a drop in the average weekly case numbers has meant the “brighter days are indeed ahead of us”.
A “significant reduction” in cases has resulted in 570 cases being recorded on average each day, down from an average of 815 just three weeks ago.
April 5 changes
From April 5, some non-essential retail, such as click and collect services, hardware stores and car showrooms and forecourts will be permitted to reopen, along with garden centres, hairdressers and barbers.
Contact sports will return for those aged between 12 and 17 with students in further education to return to learning environments, with colleges and universities to prioritise students whose return is essential.
Ms Sturgeon said the easing of restrictions to this point is the “maximum we consider at that stage to do safely”, but stressed an ongoing review will be undertaken to see if some changes after this date may be able to be implemented sooner than proposed.
April 26 changes
From April 26, Ms Sturgeon has said she hopes that all parts of mainland Scotland will be able to move from Level 4 to a “modified” Level 3.
Scottish islands currently under Level 3 restrictions may move to Level 2, although discussions between local authorities and the Scottish Government will take place to establish what this level may look like.
Cafes, restaurants and bars will be able to serve people outdoors until 10pm, with groups formed from up to six from three households.
Alcohol will be allowed without the requirement for a meal to be served. However, indoors only non-alcoholic drinks can be served with meals permitted until 8pm, in slightly smaller groups of four from two households.
All remaining retail premises will open from April 26, along with tourist accommodation, subject to restrictions.
Libraries, museums and galleries will also reopen, as will indoor gyms for individual exercise.
Restrictions on journeys within mainland Scotland are hoped to be “lifted entirely”, but there may still be some limits on travels to the islands to protect communities from incoming new cases.
Journeys between Scotland and other parts of the UK and the wider common travel area are also hoped to be relaxed at this point.
Discussions with the aviation sector and Scottish Government are to take place this week to establish when international travel may resume, however, Ms Sturgeon said: “Like the UK Government, we are certain this will not be achievable before May 17”.
Up to 50 will be allowed to gather at weddings, with driving lessons and work within homes returning, however, Ms Sturgeon urged that all of these relaxations would be constantly reviewed against case numbers.
May 17 changes
From May 17, Ms Sturgeon hopes that all of Scotland will be in a position to move down the tiered system once again, with mainland parts moving to Level 2 which she hinted could bring with it further relaxation of indoor hospitality.
Island communities are hoped to move to Level 1 at this stage.
At this point, the limit on those meeting outdoors will also change, however, crucially for some, May 17 is the date we may be allowed back into each other’s homes.
The makeup of indoor meetings will be four from two households, with Ms Sturgeon stating that “hard, painful sacrifices” have got us to the point we can look forward to this again, adding that this is the “most hopeful I have felt about the situation for a long time”.
Hospitality venues will be permitted to remain open until 10.30pm indoors with alcohol permitted at this stage, with a 10pm closing time for beer gardens.
Contact sport for adults can also resume at this point, with indoor group exercise also restarting.
Cinemas, arcades and bingo halls can also reopen, with small scale outdoor and indoor events allowed to resume, subject to rules relating to capacity.
June to end restrictions
Ms Sturgeon also outlined that from early June her hope is that all of Scotland will move to Level 1 of coronavirus restrictions – the second-lowest of five tiers.
By the end of June, she said all of Scotland will move to Level 0.
She indicated that to get to this stage, it will signal a “massive improvement on where we are now” and that she, like much of the population feels a “real sense of hope” that she may be able to hug loved ones in the summer.
Details of next phase of lifting the Scottish safety measures here: https://t.co/CqZifofDsD
Summary here 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/deaz6yBYEW
— Jason Leitch (@jasonleitch) March 16, 2021
No room for complacency
Restrictions are being eased thanks to the progress of the vaccination programme and the reduction in case numbers and covid related deaths, with Ms Sturgeon adding that there is “no room for complacency” and “care and caution remains to be essential”.
The number of Covid-19 related deaths in Scotland has halved in the past two weeks, the first minister told Holyrood
By mid-April, the Scottish Government hopes to have vaccinated all nine priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) priority list, which includes all over the age of 50 and those with underlying health conditions across the nation.